Alabama’s Offense Struggles in Win Over South Florida
Tide Has Difficulty Finding Rhythm Against Bulls
The Alabama Crimson Tide faced off against the South Florida Bulls on Saturday in Tampa. While Alabama came away with the 17-3 win, it was far from a convincing performance from the Crimson Tide.
Quarterback Questions Persist
Alabama started Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner at quarterback, replacing previous starter Jalen Milroe. However, Buchner struggled, completing just 5 of 14 passes for 34 yards. He was pulled in favor of freshman QB Ty Simpson before halftime.
Simpson faced heavy pressure all game and was sacked 5 times, but did lead Alabama’s first touchdown drive in the third quarter. His 45-yard pass to tight end CJ Dippre set up a quarterback sneak for Alabama’s second touchdown late in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
The quarterback position remains a significant question mark for the Crimson Tide heading into SEC play. Neither Buchner nor Simpson inspired much confidence against the Bull’s defense.
Offensive Line Woes
A big part of Alabama’s offensive struggles can be attributed to problems with the offensive line. The O-line gave up five sacks and failed to open many holes for the running game.
This is a shocking development for a Nick Saban-coached team, usually dominant in the trenches. Alabama features multiple highly-touted recruits along the offensive line, so their poor play is challenging to explain.
Fixing the offensive line will be crucial to getting the Alabama offense back on track. Their struggles make life difficult for the Tide’s quarterbacks and running backs.
Defense Keeps Alabama in the Game
The Crimson Tide defense deserves much credit for keeping Alabama in the game. They held South Florida to just a field goal after a muffed punt gave the Bulls a short field.
Stout Run Defense
Alabama was excellent against the run, holding South Florida to just 145 rushing yards on 41 attempts, an average of only 3.5 yards per carry. The defensive front controlled the line of scrimmage against the Bulls.
Pressure on QB
The Tide also brought good pressure on South Florida QB Byrum Brown, sacking him four times. The pass defense gave up some yards but minimized big plays while forcing Brown into inaccurate throws all day.
Alabama may have suffered a truly embarrassing loss if not for the defense keeping South Florida out of the end zone.
Concerning Signs for Alabama
While Alabama survived with a win, many troubling signs exist for a team expected to contend for the national championship.
Identity Crisis on Offense
The Crimson Tide offense looks lost right now. They have talent at the skill positions but no identity. The offensive line struggles prevent them from leaning on the running game. And inconsistent quarterback play hinders the passing attack.
This offense bears little resemblance to the high-powered units Alabama has fielded in past seasons. They must find answers quickly, with SEC play starting next week.
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There will be questions about how long Nick Saban will remain Alabama’s head coach. His tenure brought unparalleled college football dominance, but this Alabama squad lacks the precision and preparation of Saban’s best teams.
Could this be the beginning of the end of the Saban era? He will undoubtedly leave on his terms, but Alabama’s struggles make you wonder if a changing of the guard is coming sooner rather than later.
Looking Ahead to Ole Miss
Alabama has a week to try and fix some of its myriad issues before hosting Ole Miss on Saturday. The Rebels and coach Lane Kiffin would love to hand Saban and the Tide another home loss.
Offense Must Improve
To have any chance against Ole Miss, Alabama’s offense has to perform significantly better. They must get at least competent play from the quarterback and better blocking along the offensive line. The defense can’t be expected to hold Ole Miss to 3 points like they did against South Florida.
Alabama-Ole Miss has developed into an intriguing rivalry in recent years. Kiffin has the Rebels offense operating at a high level and would like nothing more than to knock off his former boss, Saban.
With Alabama reeling after uninspired wins over Texas and South Florida, Ole Miss likely sees significant upset potential when they visit Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide must start looking like Alabama again to defend their home turf against a talented Rebel squad.
The win over South Florida kept Alabama from going into a true tailspin, but there are more questions than answers right now about the identity of this team. The struggles of the offense and play of the quarterback position must be resolved for the Tide to meet their championship expectations. The Ole Miss game next Saturday is a pivotal early season matchup.