Post Game Thoughts: West Virginia

Watching Alabama football games isn’t always a lot of fun for me.  Yes, I love the build-up to the games and the anticipation of the season starting, but the actual watching can actually be tortuous.

I think this is primarily because of my out of whack expectations.  Alabama has won so many championships that my expectations are totally unreasonable.  I want to win and I want to dominate.  I want to compete in such a way that when the game is over, they readily admit they were outclassed and whipped – in every phase.  Obviously, this is nuts and these expectations can’t possibly be met.

But watching football lately has become even more tortuous for another reason.  I hate the hurry-up, no huddle offense.  With a passion.

I suppose I don’t hold it against people if they like the offense.  It is, I reluctantly say, a natural evolution of the game.  It shows how people adapt and thrive give a certain set of circumstances and I guess that’s admirable.  I guess.

But I still don’t like it.  To me, it’s basically glorified cheating and doesn’t represent the spirit of the game.  People will trot out defenses of the HUNH by bringing up the wishbone offense, but that’s really ridiculous.  The wishbone was about mental discipline and physical strength.  On both sides of the ball.  When the play was over, go to the huddle, get ready and then do it again.

The HUNH is all about deception.  It’s not just a no huddle offense.  Hurry up, bang, bang run a play.  No.  This is sprint to the line, lock in the defense and then the O gets to move around, get out of their stances, dance around, look at the sideline and then do what they want.  It’s basically cheating and I hate it, so much in fact, that I don’t know how much longer I can stomach it.  Life is too short for the HUNH.

Now, with that being said, let’s discuss Alabama – West Virginia.

First off, I was not surprised by the score.  Alabama was a mid-20 point favorite, but I didn’t expect them to cover.  That doesn’t mean I’m a betting line genius, it just means I was expecting the kind of game we saw (well, up to a point).  We had a brand-new QB and offensive coordinator and lots of holes to fill on defense. Things played out accordingly.

Next, let me adjust your perspective:  This team will lose a couple of games this year.  I’m not totally giving up or trying to be Negative Ned.  No, I’m just stating the obvious.  Our defense has some extremely big holes in it – holes that we also had last year, and our offense is good, with tons of star power, but I’m not sure Blake Sims can make all of the throws we need to win a couple of the toughest games.  That’s not saying he played terrible or poorly.  Not at all.  He played well.  It’s just stating he’s limited.

There are a couple of keys to beating a HUNH team.  Dominate the line of scrimmage, play disciplined, assignment football, and be able to cover man-to-man on the corners.  We saw the fruits of not being able to do this last year and we saw similar results against WV.  The defensive line played better, especially in the second half, but they helped make Clint Trickett look like Jameis Winston.  Our corners – well, one cornerback in particular, didn’t play well at all.  In fact, it atrocious.  It’s not the intent of this blog site to trash people.  So there’s no need to type out a lot of vitriol.  But let’s call a spade a spade.  One of our corners got picked on – repeatedly.  And if we can’t get better play – something that we’ve counted on all off-season, we’ll have a long row to hoe this season.

Our linebackers also didn’t play particularly well.  Specifically, they didn’t play well in coverage.

I’m not trying to take anything away from West Virginia, but I’m not sure they are a very good football team.  Defensively, I know they are suspect.  Offensively, I think we made them look a lot better than they really are.  With that being said, there are much tougher HUNH teams on our schedule.  As Nick Saban noted after the game, now we have some feedback; now the team knows which areas need to be improved.  I sure hope those improvements can be made and made soon.  Otherwise, we have trouble brewing.

But things were not all bad.  The offense racked up over 500 yards.  Blake Sims completed over 70% of his passes, we had two 100 yard rushers and Amari Cooper caught 12 passes.  That’s pretty dang good for a new coordinator and a new quarterback.

Sure, I don’t think the WV defense is very good, but the offense executed the game plan put before them very, very well.  Offensively, there was no room for error in this game.  Our defense was hardly breaking their serve and there was no breathing room.  Every possession counted and points were needed on each of them.  At each critical junction, though, Sims and the offense stepped up and made plays (yeah, well, except for one interception).  And when the game was on the line with a 10 point lead and almost seven minutes left, they ate the clock and iced the game.  That’s a great first game in my book.  It’s a great confidence builder and, most importantly, the team won.

Heading into this game, I expected Sims to play about 70% of the snaps.  That was assuming he just didn’t stink things up.  I figured the game would be too close for Jake Coker to play much of a significant role.  I guess I was expecting a little larger lead in the second half and Coker would play most of the fourth.  Obviously, it didn’t work out that way and I think it was a good call for Sims to play the whole way.  He was leading the team, they were moving the ball and scored on most every possession.  Sims wasn’t playing poorly enough to justify whatever upside Coker could provide at that point.

Unfortunately for Coker, Sims’ play may have secured the starting role for a while.  Unless he stinks it up big time against either Florida Atlantic or Southern Miss, I think we know who has won the QB battle.  I do think Coker will play some meaningful snaps in the next two games.  There is still a good chance we’ll need to lean on him at some point in the year, so the experience will be helpful.

To sum things up, I hate the spread and our team has some significant weak spots this year.  We have some huge challenges on the schedule.  I’m hoping some significant improvement will occur between now and then.  For now, though, I will enjoy being 1-0 and this 33-23 win.

Roll Tide!

Auburn’s Passing Game

Auburn thinks their passing game will be much improved this year:

Gus Malzahn has options and he’s ready to use them.

The Auburn coach’s promise to throw the ball more often in his second season will be fulfilled only if his receivers follow through, and so far the Tigers believe their options are abundant and strong.

“Really, for the first time, at least since I’ve been at Auburn, we’ve got deep threats at every position we put on the field,” Malzahn said Monday on SiriusXM radio. “Hopefully that will equate into some big plays in the passing game.”

Here are the those prospective deep threats:

Sammie Coates, who was eighth nationally in yards per catch (21.5) last season, returns after a 900-yard season. Ricardo Louis, who fans will always remember for his 73-yard tipped touchdown catch against Georgia, is also back. It’s those big threats — they all stand tall at 6-foot-2 — that has Malzahn expecting a breakout season in the passing game, which ranked 108th nationally at 173 yards per game in 2013.

When you consider how dominate Auburn’s offense was in 2013 – this was a team that rushed for 4,500 yards after all, it makes one wonder why Gus Malzahn would keep tinkering. Plus, besides the fact that their rushing game was so dominant, Nick Marshall didn’t appear to be that good of a passer, so why mess with a good thing?

Well, here’s the reason:

“It’s going to be hard to double-team anybody on our team,” Coates said. “We have a lot of threats everywhere.”

We’ve talked on this blog recently about the importance of the double team. It’s huge – whether it’s offensive or defensive players demanding this attention. Unfortunately, the benefits of double-teams apply to Auburn as well.

I don’t think – at least for 2014 – that Malzahn wants to get too far away from their potent running game. There are many reasons for this. Their offensive line looks to be very good; they have several capable running backs; and Marshall is very effective when he runs. There’s no reason to over complicate things. Until the running game can be stopped, opposing teams will get a load of it.

But at some point, some team will effectively stop their rushing attack. It may be Alabama or it may be LSU or it may be another team. But, eventually, it will be stopped and that’s where defenses double-teaming wide outs will become very important. Defenses will load the box and go man on the edges, tempting Auburn to go up and over. We saw this last year at times, which helps to explain Coates’ gaudy YPC.

The problem for Auburn, as we saw last year is that, at times, Marshall just wasn’t very good throwing the ball. While last year’s crop of SEC quarterbacks was very good, top heavy in fact, Marshall was only middle of the pack in terms of throwing the ball. He was 6th in terms of QB rating, but only 10th in completion ratio. That’s not good enough for the elite teams of the SEC. With stats like that, it’s easy to see why defensive coordinators will be loading the box to stop Auburn’s running game and daring Marshall to beat them with the pass.

SEC West Swing Games

Gone, thank goodness.

Recently, we took a look at the “swing games” for the SEC East?

What are swing games you?  Well, these are the stretch of games that swing the season for your favorite team.  Maybe your team meets the challenge each week for these games and cruises to a better bowl than last year.  Or, maybe your team is crushed by this stretch and a once promising season becomes a nightmare.  These are the games that determine how your team’s season will be viewed.

Let’s take a look now at the swing games for the SEC West.

Alabama – Two well placed bye weeks divides the Tide’s schedule into three sections.  The first includes West Virginia and Florida, the second includes a stretch of four straight SEC games, and the third includes LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn, though West Carolina High School is also in there as well.  This looks fairly manageable for an SEC schedule.  One could argue the four straight SEC games in October is the toughest patch, but Tide fans know that every season boils down to what happens in October.  Bama may stumble somewhere during the first eight games, but what happens against LSU, State and Auburn will decide the season.

Arkansas – This is a nasty schedule, one that almost makes you feel sorry for the Hogs.  Almost.  The record may swing on games against Texas A&M and State, but whether or not second-year coach Bret Bielema’s team takes a step forward will be based on the last three games of the season: LSU, Ole Miss and Missouri.  These back-to-back-to-back games in November will tell us if the Hogs quit or how big of a step forward they take.

Auburn – On paper, this isn’t an easy schedule.  But with the Tigers, you never know what will happen.  Gus Malzahn’s team lost the national title in the last minute to Florida State last year.  Obviously, this is a motivating factor for 2014, but a trip to the playoffs will most likely be decided by the meat grinder that commences on October 25th.  South Carolina, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Georgia, Samford and Alabama comprise a six-game stretch that could break almost any team.

LSU – This is a transitional year for Les Miles and his Tigers.  Tons of talented players have left over the course of the last couple of seasons and tons of new talent has arrived.  Whether this season is considered rebuilding or reloading, though, will likely be determined beginning with the four games starting on September 27th.  Road trips to Auburn and Florida will be followed by home games against Kentucky and Ole Miss.  LSU is more talented than all of these teams, but the SEC is a grind and we’ll see if Miles’ gang can stay focused.

Mississippi State – Playing in the SEC West means State’s schedule will always be tough.  It could be worse in 2014, though.  The Dogs draw Kentucky and Vanderbilt from the East and that makes Dan Mullen’s job a good deal more manageable.  Mullen has pulled together four winning seasons in a row in Starkville and that’s no small feat.  The Dogs will most likely add number five to that streak, but improving on last season’s 7-6 record will come down to the three games following the off week against UT-Martin.  State closes with Alabama, Vandy and Ole Miss.  Winning seven, eight or nine games will be based on how the results of these three games.

Ole Miss – Some folks are predicting big things from the Rebel Black Bears and the schedule looks fairly manageable for Hugh Freeze.  The opening game against Boise State will be a challenge and the Egg Bowl to end the season is obviously a big game, but the five game stretch beginning on October 4th against Bama will determine if this is a good or great season.  Following the Tide, the Rebs have Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn.  Again, a meat grinder.  Freeze’s bunch could lose all four, win all four or do something in between those extremes.

Texas A&M – Kevin Sumlin’s third year in College Station will be without the Johnny Manziel show.  But while that may ease the media circus in town, it certainly won’t help with the schedule.  The Aggies have a tough opener against South Carolina and then follow up with a four game SEC stretch beginning on September 27th that includes Alabama and Ole Miss.  But the Aggies season will ultimately come down to their last three games: Auburn, Missouri, and LSU.  Sumlin’s team lost four games last season with the uber-talented Manziel.  That’s not good enough, long-term, for the Aggie faithful and those four losses included losses to the three Tiger teams at the end of the schedule.


SEC East Swing Games

UGA’s Todd Gurley

The conference schedule for SEC teams can be a meat grinder.  Win that big game against your divisional rival and the next week you’re on the road heading into an ambush.  The week after that?  Another conference foe is ready to take you down.

That’s one reason why it’s so impressive for an SEC team to run the table with an undefeated season.  It’s also a reason why a one loss (and occasional two-loss) team can play for a national title.

As teams move through their schedule, though, there’s usually one stretch of games that define the season.  For some teams, that stretch determines whether it will be a championship season.  For others, it means the difference between bowling and staying home.  For some, it might decide the fate of the coaching staff.

So let’s take a look at the toughest stretch of games for each SEC team.  These group of games will likely determine the overall outcome of each team’s season.  We’ll start with the SEC East (in alphabetical order).

Florida – The schedule isn’t kind to the Gators this season and they’ll have a lot of work to do to move past their 4-8 2013.  Alabama and Florida State dot the schedule, but the October stretch against Tennessee, LSU and Missouri is the most important stretch for the Gators.  Win two of three and Florida moves to .500 or better for the season and Will Mushchamp likely makes it back for 2015.

Georgia – Clemson and South Carolina in September are tough, but there’s a bye week in between and a loss to either (or both) doesn’t wreck the Dawgs’ hopes for an SEC title.  Beginning September 27th, the Dawgs begin a four game stretch against Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Missouri and Arkansas that will either propel UGA toward a title in the East or send folks screaming for Mark Richt’s head.

Kentucky – There’s nowhere to go but up for the Wildcats, and they will likely be improved. For the Cats, though, the five game stretch also beginning on October 18th will tell us just how bad things will get.  LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee form a murderer’s row for Kentucky that will tell us how much fight is in Mark Stoops’ team.  Will they quit or take a step forward?

Missouri – The defending SEC East champs don’t have a horrendous schedule.  It comes in bite size chunks that Gary Pinkel’s team looks to swallow for a return to Atlanta.  The key stretch, however, begins on October 11th against Georgia and continues with Florida, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.  The UGA and Florida games could go either way, but can the Tigers keep their intensity through all four games.

South Carolina – The Gamecocks have several high profile match-ups sprinkling their schedule, but the four game stretch beginning on September 13 will tell us if Steve Spurrier can reach double-digit wins for four straight years.  Georgia, Vanderbilt, Missouri and Kentucky fill the stretch before the Carolina’s first by week and while the Dores and Cats don’t strike fear on paper, no one expected a loss to a weak Tennessee team last year.

Tennessee – The Volunteers have four straight losing seasons.  Adding a non-conference game against Oklahoma certainly won’t help Butch Jones break that streak.  Getting to six wins may come down to the last week of the season, so that makes the last three games the most critical stretch for the Vols.  It’s entirely possible that the Vols will have to sweep Kentucky, Missouri and Vandy to go bowling.

Vanderbilt – If there’s a team expected to make a leap backwards this season, it’s Vandy.  The Dores may scratch out six wins this year, but it’s an early season stretch against South Carolina, Kentucky and Georgia that will tell us how together Derek Mason has his team.


SEC 2014: Ranking the QBs

Bo Wallace

The last several years in the SEC have seen some lofty quarterback play.  Last year, we witnessed the showcasing of Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Alabama’s AJ McCarron, Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Auburn’s Nick Marshall.

Even the next level of signal callers was very solid:  Connor Shaw at South Carolina, James Franklin and Maty Mauck  at Missouri, Bo Wallace at Ole Miss and Zach Mettenberger at LSU.  Toward the end of the season, we began to see, perhaps, an emerging star in Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott.  And even Vandy’s Austyn Carta-Samuels was solid for the Dores.

That only left Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky without somewhat reliable signal-calling and Jeff Driskel of the Gators spend most of the season injured.

The 2014 season, however, brings the departure of seven of the top eight quarterbacks in terms of passing efficiency.  Most notably, Manziel, McCarron and Murray are gone.  Auburn’s Marshall is, obviously, the top returning of last year’s top eight.

So, as this season rolls around, we are left to ponder who fills this vacuum of superstar QBs.  Will this be a season where the emphasis shifts to other skill players, or, gasp, back to the defensive side of the ball?  Or will this be a year where we see a new crop of stars start to rise?

To help us figure this out, let’s take a look at college football guru Phil Steele’s quarterback rankings, by team, for the upcoming season (according to his 2014 season preview magazine).  I’ve put the presumptive starter in parentheses and keep in mind that Steele is ranking these teams as quarterbacking units, not simply by who the starter is.

  1. Auburn (Nick Marshall)
  2. Ole Miss (Bo Wallace)
  3. Florida (Jeff Driskel)
  4. (4) Mississippi State (Dak Prescott)
  5. (4) Missouri (Maty Mauk)
  6. Alabama (Blake Sims or Jacob Coker)
  7. (7) South Carolina (Dylan Thompson)
  8. (7) Kentucky (Patrick Towles)
  9. Georgia (Hutson Mason)
  10. (10) Arkansas (Brandon Allen)
  11. (10) LSU (Brandon Harris or Anthony Jennings)
  12. (10) Tennessee (Justin Worley)
  13. Texas A&M (Kyle Allen or Kenny Hill)
  14. Vanderbilt (Johnny McCrary)

One look at that list and, yes, you’ll see that the quarterback position in the SEC is definitely going through a transition in 2014.

There’s no doubt that Auburn has the best returning unit in the league.  Marshall and backup Jeremy Johnson are an extremely talented duo.  We saw Johnson some last year and he has loads of talent.  It’ll be interesting to see how he is used this year and how much.  It’s scary to think of a player more talented than Marshall running Malzahn’s offense.

But beyond the Tigers, I’m not sure I agree much with Steele’s rankings (either individually or taken as a unit).  If these rankings hold true as the season progresses, we could see several upsets and a re-ordering of the league, at least for 2014.  For example, if Wallace and Prescott are two of the top three quarterbacks in the West by season’s end, I wouldn’t be surprised to see either LSU or Alabama both shuffle lower than second in the West – at least for a season.  That’s not bad mouthing either LSU or Alabama.  That’s simply saying what effect such stellar play from both Wallace and Prescott could have this year.

For this to happen, both of these players will have to become much more explosive and will have to eliminate turnovers.

Driskel returns from an injury and the Gators are supposedly gassing up their offense.  I’ll believe this when I see it.  Driskel is talented and experienced, but, again, this is a see-it-to-believe it deal.

Tide fans like to think they could win 10 games no matter who the starter is.  The rest of the team is so talented, that quarterbacking at Bama seems easier than it is.  The truth is, either Sims or Coker can lead the team to double-digit wins, but winning one or more of the other games will require some very good play.  Sims doesn’t seem like the protypical Saban-style Bama quarterback, but he brings some running skills to the game that could be interesting.  Like back in 2011, this battle may last two or three games into the season.

Steve Spurrier has led the Gamecocks to rarefied air – at least by South Carolina standards.  Three straight years of 11-2 records is, I’m guessing, the best stretch in school history.  That stretch also happens to coincide with Connor Shaw’s emergence as Carolina’s steady signal-caller.  This year he’s gone and Spurrier will turn to Thompson, who did have some significant playing time last year.  Thompson’s a talented QB, but it remains to be seen if he has the “it” factor brought to the team by Shaw.  If not, the Gamecocks take a step back this year.

Georgia loses Murray, but got an early jump on replacing him after his late season injury.  Hutson Mason stepped in ably and I see no reason why he misses a beat in 2014.  Steele has the Dawgs’ unit ranked as ninth in the league.  I don’t see this at all.

With 14 teams in the league, it’s almost like writing a book to evaluate every QB, so I’ll save some time and keystrokes and give you this:

  1. Auburn (Nick Marshall) – This is pretty obvious.  The Tigers won’t miss a beat without Marshall.
  2. Missouri (Maty Mauk) – Mauk got a lot of good experience and plays in an offense where he can sling up some impressive numbers.
  3. Georgia (Hutson Mason) – Mason has already assumed the job from Murray and also plays in a stat friendly offense.
  4. South Carolina (Dylan Thompson) – He won’t run as much as Shaw, but maybe won’t need to.
  5. Ole Miss (Bo Wallace) – Wallace threw for over 3,000 yards last year, but needs to be more consistent and cut down his turnovers.
  6. Mississippi State (Dak Prescott) – Was the shine at the end of last season real for Prescott?  We’ll see soon enough.
  7. Florida (Jeff Driskel) – Even if he stays healthy, Driskel still needs to prove he can play at a level high enough for the Gators to win.
  8. Alabama (Blake Sims or Jacob Coker) – Don’t expect huge numbers from either Sims or Coker, but that doesn’t mean the Tide won’t win.
  9. Texas A&M (Kyle Allen or Kenny Hill) – I wouldn’t be surprised to see A&M’s quarterback in the top five by year end, but it’s hard to justify the ranking now.
  10. Tennessee (Justin Worley) – Worley may struggle (again) behind an inexperienced offensive line.
  11. LSU (Brandon Harris or Anthony Jennings) – Consistency is the key word at QB in Baton Rouge.
  12. Arkansas (Brandon Allen) – Allen doesn’t have much around him besides a decent running game.
  13. Kentucky (Patrick Towles) – I’ve never heard of Towles, but he plays for Kentucky.
  14. Vanderbilt (Johnny McCrary) – Ditto the Kentucky comment here.



What to Expect from Sims or Coker

Will it be Coker?

In Nick Saban’s seven seasons at the Capstone, there have been three starting quarterbacks and two transitions between those three players, but only one actual position battle.  That came before the 2011 season as both AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims battled to replace Greg McElroy.

This season brings another transition and another battle.  Another Sims, Blake, and Florida State transfer Jacob Coker are both in the race to succeed McCarron.

I think most people believe the job has been won by Coker.  That’s interesting, because he’s new to the program, must learn the playbook, is coming off of a knee injury (though he should be fully healed) and has yet to strap on a crimson helmet for the first time.

Or Sims?

We base this concession to Coker, I think, on two things.  One, Blake Sims started his career as a running back (and would probably still make a fine one) and we have substantial doubts about his passing ability.  As a backup QB for the last couple of years, Sims has managed to log playing time in 18 games and has thrown 39 passes in garbage time.  He can, however, run the ball very well, and even logged two rushing touchdowns during the 2012 season.  Coker, playing in a mop up role for the Seminoles, has also thrown 41 passes in real, live college football games.

Second, we think Coker fills the stereotyped-role of a Saban quarterback better than Sims.  Coker is 6’5″ tall and weighs 230 pounds and we think he’s more of a pocket passer.  Sims, meanwhile, goes 6’0″ and 208, and likes to get outside the pocket to try to make things happen.

But regardless of their measurables and their heights and weights (and their skin color), the thing that will determine who wins (or keeps) the starting quarterback job, will be who can do the things Nick Saban wants the best.  And if you look back over the last seven Alabama football seasons, you get an idea of what those things are:

  • Minimal turnovers;
  • High completion percentage; and
  • Being the game manager.

Minimal Turnovers
The key to playing Nick Saban style football is to be fundamentally sound.  This obviously includes limiting turnovers.  And for the last seven years, Alabama quarterbacks have done a pretty phenomenal job taking care of the football through the air.  Take a look at these touchdown and interception numbers:

  • 2007 – John Parker Wilson (18-12)
  • 2008 – Wilson (10-8)
  • 2009 – Greg McElroy (17-4)
  • 2010 – McElroy (20-5)
  • 2011 – AJ McCarron (16-5)
  • 2012 – McCarron (30-3)
  • 2013 – McCarron (28-7)

That’s a touchdown to interception ratio of 139-44 (numbers for starters only) – nearly 3:1 – over the course of seven years.  That’s pretty phenomenal.  And when you leave out the JPW years, you get a ratio of 4.62:1.  I think we’ll agree that these are pretty fantastic numbers.  I think it’s also safe to say this is the park in which Saban wants his QB to play.

Now, I’m not saying Coker or Sims should be expected to hang up 30 and 3, but I do think for Alabama to be successful, whoever the quarterback is will need to keep this number under 10.  And by successful I mean that more interceptions than 10 would continue to create predicaments for the team that they might not be able to escape.

High Completion Percentage
Something that has also tracked right along with Alabama’s team success of the last seven years has been passing completion percentage.

Here are the completion percentage numbers for the starting quarterback during Saban’s tenure at Bama:

  • 2007 – Wilson (55.2)
  • 2008 – Wilson (57.9)
  • 2009 – McElroy (60.9)
  • 2010 – McElroy (70.9)
  • 2011 – McCarron (66.8)
  • 2012 – McCarron (67.2)
  • 2013 – McCarron (67.3)

Beginning with McElroy, we begin to see the type of completion numbers associated with very effective offenses.  In fact, if you go back and look at all of the BCS champions (1998-2013), you’ll see that only four of the 16 champions didn’t pass at a rate of at least 60.0% (’98 Tennessee; ’99 FSU; ’01 Miami; and ’07 LSU).  You will also see that since the 2002 champions was crowned (Ohio State), only one team has failed to complete at least 60 percent of its passes (’07 LSU).  [Stats from]

This, obviously, isn’t a straight-line, 100% correlation that if your team passes successfully at least 60 percent of the time that you will win a title.  Absolutely not.  But it does say, I think, that the the teams that do win it all, do throw the ball very effectively.

In Alabama’s case, for example, I think the completion percentage change from Wilson’s era to McElroy’s was significant.  Over his career, Wilson attempted 1,175 passes.  Had he completed 60 percent of those versus only 56.6, that would have meant another 40 completions, and, on average, another 268 yards and maybe another touchdown or two.  Over the course of a couple of seasons, that probably means another win or two as well.

As I did above, you can statistically calculate what the extra passing yards, etc. would have been.  What you can’t put your finger on is where in the games those completions happen.  If that extra completion keeps a drive alive or moves the chains on third down, it’s huge.  If that extra completion means a late touchdown against LSU, it’s huge.  And overall, when your quarterback is completing passes at a clip greater than 60%, those things are happening.

So I write all of that to say this, Alabama needs it’s next quarterback to throw the ball efficiently.  If Sims or Coker can’t complete at least 60 percent of their passes, things won’t feel very good.

Being the Game Manager
McElroy and McCarron were both tagged with the “game manager” label.  Maybe they didn’t like it (or maybe they did), but either way, that’s what they were.  That was their job.

Now, to be fair, the “game manager” label is probably a little more broad than some people want to acknowledge.  It’s doesn’t simply mean handing the ball off for four quarters or simply taking snaps until your defense can get back on the field.  It means managing the game to the specification of your game plan.  It means doing what you have to do to win.

In the cases of McElroy and McCarron, there were definitely times when the game fell directly onto their shoulders.  Think Auburn 2009.  Think rematch with LSU back in the BCS title game.  Their teams needed them and they responded.

The first things the starting quarterback will have to do is what I’ve listed above.  Don’t turn the ball over.  Complete your passes.  Do the basic things to help your team win.  If the quarterback can get these down, the other opportunities will follow.

The same will be required of either Coker or Sims.  Don’t expect Saban or Lane Kiffin to dump the entire load on the quarterback for the opener against West Virginia.  But at some point during this season, if it is to be a successful season, the team will look to the quarterback to come through for them.  Whether or not he does will determine what kind of season it will be.