This post continues discussion of this weekend's game with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Let's hear what you think in the comments thread.
3. Are we fast enough on defense to hang with Alabama?
This question is in response to something silver82blade mentioned in a comments thread. We looked, to put it bluntly, slow against Auburn. Other than with Shaq Wilson, though, I'm not sure speed was actually the problem. First of all, as we've mentioned several times around here, Auburn got away with a lot of holding in that game. It's hard for a lineman or linebacker to close pursuit on a Cameron Newton or Onterio McCalebb when the back of said defender's jersey is being held. (Don't be surprised if we're on the bad end of the SEC officiating again this wekeend--we may be at home, but this is Alabama we're talking about.) Second of all, the problem for our secondary seems to be a coverage problem. We seem to be giving opposing receivers a lot of room out of our zone packages. That's fine against teams like Southern Miss. or Georgia that we can shut down--and who self-destruct, as Georgia did a couple of times--in the red zone. It's not fine against Alabama, because they have the backs and big receivers to punch it in more often than not when they get close to the goal line.
Athletically, there's no lack of speed on this defense, at least not in the starting lineup. It's putting that speed to use that's been a problem for us.
2. Can we come up with any key turnovers to turn this game on its head?
Let's not beat around the bushes about this--it's probably going to take a big pick or three for us to put ourselves into position to win. Fortunately, Greg McElroy is a QB who does make some poor decisions from time to time. We need to make him pay on his bad throws.
A real key here is whether or not we can find a viable pass rusher. I hope our coaching staff is ready to dial up some clever blitzes, because we sure aren't getting much pressure from the ends.
1. Do we stand any chance against Alabama's run game?
This is really the kicker. You know that Alabama wants to line up and run Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram down our throats. That's what their offense is built to do. They don't want to have to win the game on McElroy's arm.
We were actually doing quite well against the run early on this season, and we didn't do too bad against it in the first half against Auburn, at least when it wasn't Newton doing the running. Late in the game against the Tigers, I think the problem was some combination of the holding and our defense's weariness after spending the vast majority of the second half on the field. Both of those problems might rear their head again, especially if our offense can't stay on the field.
Schematically, we've been much better this year against conventional rushing attacks. Mobile QBs are what have hurt us, so expect 'Bama to try to test us with Ingram under center. Let's hope Ellis Johnson has figured out something to prevent what happened last year from happening again.