I got together with a 'Bama guy who writes for the SEC blog Bourbon and Coke to chat about this weekend's game. I'm sure you'll be interested to see what he had to say. I'll post my responses to B & C's questions soon. Be sure to check out some of the other stuff they've got up previewing our game.
1. Ryan Mallett and Arkansas were able to move the ball fairly effectively against the Tide a couple of weeks ago, particularly in the first half. Why did they have more success than your other opponents, and what were the key half-time adjustments that Saban and his staff used to curb their productivity?
Arkansas was able to take advantage of some Bama turnovers early in the first half and take some chances on offense. The Razorbacks took advantage of a coverage breakdown to get their first TD, effectively putting the Tide on its heels just a few minutes into the game. McElroy's miscues had as much to do with Arkansas building its lead as Mallett did. The biggest adjustment Saban and his staff made was offensively. The Tide came out and started to pound the ball with Ingram and Richardson, keeping Mallett and the Hogs' offense off the field. Bama took a more conservative approach in the second half, getting back to what they do best.
2. Alabama bounced back from its nailbiter against Arkansas with a resounding victory over Florida. Is Arkansas really that much better than the Gators, or was improved play by 'Bama the difference?
I have to point to the turnovers by the Gators as the major difference between the two games, more specifically the timing of the turnovers. The Gators had a successful drive halted with an interception in the end zone on their first possession. A costly interception deep in their own end of the field on their third possession. Before you knew it, it was 24-0 with six minutes to go in the second quarter. Their other two possessions up to that point were three-and-outs. Florida's offense isn't good enough, at this point, to come back down 24 against solid defenses -- let alone Alabama's unit.
Arkansas was able to move the ball freely in the first half, and took advantage of two McElroy interceptions to build a lead. The Hogs got out in front of the Tide and that was obviously the key to keeping that one close. In sum, I think Arkansas is a step or two better than the Gators offensively.
3. If you could have any player on South Carolina's roster, who would it be? Why?
Alshon Jeffery. Only a sophomore, I think he is already one of the best receivers in the conference. Lattimore is obviously a close second, but Jeffery has a rare combination of size and speed that makes him slightly more valuable. I feel like he is still somewhat of an unknown, even in SEC circles. That will all change shortly, as the kid is definitely going to play on Sundays.
4. Alabama has mostly dominated South Carolina, although Carolina did manage to get a couple of victories in during 'Bama's down years in the first part of the decade. Do you have any particularly fond memories from this series?
For me, the Bama/Cock game back in 2001. A sloppy game (I think there were like 10 fumbles), USC won that one 37-36, in what I believe was USC's first ever victory over the Crimson Tide. I remember being there as the Gamecocks fans stormed the field and tore down the posts. I recall Tyler Watts scored on an option to put the Tide up by two possessions with a little over ten minutes to go. USC answered on back-to-back possessions and ran out the clock to close it out. It was one of those games that you can't believe you lost, but you did. Dennis Franchione was the coach, and that loss seemed to personify his reign in Tuscaloosa; he somehow found a way to lose that one. Just a heart breaker, pure and simple.
5. "Bama has no reason to lack confidence going into of its remaining games. What game worries you most, though? Where does South Carolina rank on your list of potential landmines? Why?
South Carolina is right at the top due to the fact that Bama is playing its third quality, ranked team in as many weeks. You have to wonder if Saban can keep getting this team up and take everyone's best shot week after week. Down the road, I'd really hate to see Auburn undefeated coming into Tuscaloosa to close out the season. Something about that prospect makes me nervous. I will say this, USC might be the best team left on our slate. LSU doesn't seem to have the offense to compete and I feel like Bama can hold Cam Newton somewhat in check. I'd say that the USC game scares me more than the Auburn matchup due to the fact that it is being played away from Bryant-Denny.