Colorado State Observations

The score sounds about right – 31 to 6 – but the Tide’s performance last night against Colorado State was underwhelming.

From Cade Foster’s missed field goal attempt in the first quarter to the astoundingly bad third down conversion rate on offense, the whole night felt like one big waste of time (perhaps the whole college football weekend did as well).

Defensively, playing against Jim McElwain’s Ram offense was probably just what the doctor ordered.  One week after giving up a record amount of yardage against Texas A&M, Nick Saban through several new defensive backs into the fire and that worked out fine against the out-manned Rams.

Offensively, the running game was non-existent and most of the play calling was extremely bland.  The Tide played without offensive starters Anthony Steen and Amari Cooper, T.J. Yeldon was held out of the first quarter and wide out Kevin Norwood didn’t play.

A few more observations:

* AJ McCarron may have found a new favorite target: freshman tight end O.J. Howard.  They hooked up early for three completions good for 38 yards before Doug Nussmeier turned off the spigot.

* Speaking of McCarron, statistically, he didn’t have a bad night: 20-of-26 for 258, one touchdown and one interception.  The interception was, in a word, awful.  It’s the kind of throw we really haven’t seen from AJ since the LSU game in November 2011.  It was just a bad pass and never should have been attempted.

* There was one thing that did catch my attention about the interception, though.  On the previous three plays, McCarron was locked in on Christion Jones for gains of 23, 12 and 11 yards.  Following the third pass, wide out Kenny Bell was having a discussion with McCarron and perhaps letting him know he was open.  Anyways, the following play broke down and McCarron makes the ill-advised pass in the direction of whom?  You guessed it – Bell.  It was such a bad pass from McCarron that I wondered if he thought – based on the previous conversation – that Bell would be more open than he actually was.  Enough about that.

* Landon Collins is a baller.  He’s been a special teams demon all year and has worked himself into significant playing time in the defensive backfield.  It very apparent you can’t keep this kid off the field and will be a leader for the remainder of his time at the Capstone.

* We have two big holes defensively.  One we don’t have a dominant pass rusher.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking end or linebacker, we don’t have that one guy who can’t be blocked.  We haven’t had a Courtney Upshaw, Dont’a Hightower or Marcel Dareus type player show up this year.  Yes, we have a lot of front seven talent, but we haven’t seen that one guy who can’t be stopped.  That’s a big deal for opposing offenses.  Simply put, that type of dominant player forces the opposing offense to account for him – with one or more players – and that thereby limits some of their options.

* Our second problem defensively is we don’t have a lock-down, first-round pick at corner.  At least we haven’t seen that impact from our older corners.  Maurice Smith and Eddied Jackson – two true freshmen who saw significant playing time – may be those type players, but they are green.  Because we don’t have this kind of play yet, it’s taking two players – the corner and help over the top – to do the corner’s job.  So, obviously, that limits our defensive options.  Think back to the Texas A&M game.  Our corners were forced into man coverage because our safeties had to help with Johnny Manziel – and the corners failed in their one-on-one battles.

* Once again, the offense was putrid, and once again, I don’t think we’re as bad as we looked.  Sure, Anthony Steen, Amari Cooper and Kevin Norwood didn’t play.  Personally, I don’t think this mattered a whole lot.  I think we went into the game with a bland offensive package and once the game was no longer in doubt that bland package was scaled down even more.  The fact is, we out-manned CSU and the game was never in doubt.  It’s also a fact our next opponent – Ole Miss – is one of the three toughest we’ll face this year.  Why waste any advantage you may have for Ole Miss or LSU against Colorado State?

* Because of the last point, I think it’s a waste of time to analyze much of the offense and try to diagnose a problem.

* This is also a bit of a stretch, but I also don’t think Saban minded that his offense struggled a bit because it gave his young defensive backs more playing time.

* Also, we may look at the defensive backfield situation with doom and gloom, but I’ll bet Saban is fired up about it.  I’ll be the prospect of getting those young guys up to speed and on the field really energizes him.