Monday, October 3, 2011

week 5 thoughts: winner by a knockout

Most of Saturday, honestly, is a blur. We bought tickets to the game on a whim, woke up before sunrise in Leeds, Ala., and drove like crazy people to Gainesville. By 3:30 local time, we'd parked the car and were on campus.
And the game didn't even start for another 4 hours.

Riding down the road, listening to the ESPN crew discussing Saturday night's game (ESPN Radio broadcasts the television feed of "Gameday" over the radio), a thought occurred to me.
"We're better than they are," I said to my wife, kind of out of the blue.
"Do what?" she said.
"I mean, we're a better football team than they are."
Five minutes passed.
"Not that we can't lose. We could easily go in here tonight, turn the ball over like 8 times, miss a couple tackles, and lose."
Another pause.
"But we're better than them."

I'm telling you this for two reasons: first, I'm so rarely right about these things — I probably make about 8000 different predictions before, during and after an Alabama game (mostly about something awful that's going to happen) that never ever come true.
And the second: this Alabama is really good. I mean, really good. Potentially great.
Saturday night was a prime example of that: Alabama ran at and over Florida, weathered an early storm from the homestanding Gators — and for the record, it was deafening in there for the first quarter — and then took them apart for the next three-and-a-half quarters. The final result was as brutal as it was inevitable: Alabama 38, Florida 10.
Time will tell about the quality of this Gator team. I was definitely prepared to anoint them the favorites in a flawed group of SEC East contenders, but their current offense is limited to "put the ball in Chris Rainey or Jeff Demps' hands and hope they do something great," which simply doesn't work against elite defenses.
Having said that, nobody walks into Florida Field and crams it down the home team's throat the way Alabama did Saturday night. Even if this isn't a vintage Steve Spurrier/Urban Meyer Florida team, it's still one that's pretty good. And Alabama crushed them in their own stadium. Even for the most cynical Alabama fans (like, well, me) that's hard to ignore.

Some other thoughts ...
— I realize this is nitpicking, but Alabama's defense has, over the past two years, shown a propensity for starting slowly on the road. In 2010, Arkansas, Tennessee and South Carolina all led in the first quarter; in two road trips thus far this season, the home offense has seen its greatest success early in the game. We've righted ourselves, obviously — by the time the second quarter started Saturday night in Gainesville, Florida looked deflated and on its heels. It just seems curious, is all.
— Remember our discussion back before the season about luck? Well, we were lucky as hell to get out of the first quarter Saturday tied at 10. Chris Rainey fell out of bounds on what was an easy touchdown; the officials (correctly) overruled a second-quarter touchdown catch; and DeQuan Menzie smartly chopped the ball away on third down (avoiding pass interference in the process, thank God). Holding them to a field goal there was one of the bigger plays of the game. Seriously.
— It is so, so gratifying to a former offensive lineman and fan of old-fashioned football to see the way Alabama's running game attacks opposing defenses. Saturday night, most of our success came up the middle, largely because Florida came out in a really odd defensive set that basically dared us to run the ball up the middle. And credit to A.J. McCarron for recognizing when that happened, calling audibles at the line and getting us into the right play.
— While we're on the subject of McCarron, it's enjoyable to see the kid's emotion, even as he's invoking the wrath of about 90,000 Florida fans. More enjoyable: Saban telling him to settle down on national television.

— I'm not sure who I felt worse for Saturday: John Brantley — I knew he was hurt immediately after I saw him go down — or poor Jeff Driskel, who stood on the sidelines staring vacantly onto the field as Brantley writhed in pain at the 35-yard line. His reward for surviving the second half: a road trip to LSU.
(Note: Dad pointed out that the guys on "Talkin' Football" noted that Florida might put in some different sets this week, in an attempt to take advantage of Driskel's running ability. Which sounds great, until someone from LSU separates one of his arms from his body and eats it.)
— First, let's just enjoy this play.
Now for the embarrassing part: While excitedly recounting the play to the guy next to me, I called Nick Gentry "Kyle Tatum." Twice. I'm really old. It's kind of upsetting.
— With the team's ascension to No. 2 in the nation, the national narrative will center around the LSU game in November until ... well, November. And it's true that Alabama should win every game on its schedule until that week.
My wife pointed this out, but it bears repeating: When you spend all your time watching, worrying over and endlessly discussing your favorite team, it's almost surprising to find out anyone else has even noticed. In fact, our collective reaction when we found out we were moving back to second in the nation was, "Really?"
And the answer is yes, really. Because when this team plays like it did Saturday, it's better than just about everybody else out there.

1 comment:

-D. said...

Really old, huh? Are you 30 yet? Hehe.