Alabama Football 3 Keys: Mississippi State

Alabama football Three-keys

What a shocker. Alabama, having already received a scare from Florida earlier in the 2021 college football season, was supposed to have figured things out.

By Matt Zemek

The Crimson Tide looked like a complete team against Ole Miss, throttling the Rebels’ offense and appearing to be formidable on both sides of the ball. Alabama’s defense doesn’t need to be spectacular to win games. Its offense is usually up to the task, as shown in the 52-46 win over Florida in last year’s SEC Championship Game. Yet, against an Ole Miss offense which just slapped 52 points against Arkansas, Alabama thrived, holding the Rebels under 30 points.

That game seemed to show that Alabama – scared by Florida – was sober and focused and ready to dominate the rest of the season.

Whoops!

The Texas A&M game featured extensive defensive breakdowns, and yet that was just a small part of what Alabama did poorly. The Tide scored a special teams touchdown but then gave it right back. Whenever Alabama did something positive, it immediately did two negative things shortly thereafter. After a massively disappointing performance which led to a stunning setback, the Tide have a million different problems they must address. We will focus on three of them as Nick Saban brings Bama to Starkville to face Mississippi State.

1 – Red-zone offense

How bad was Alabama in scoring territory? The Tide had first downs inside the A&M 35-yard line on six different possessions and came away with just 23 points on those six possessions. That’s not the Alabama standard; not even close. Alabama settled for red-zone field goals and couldn’t execute in closed spaces. Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien called a terrible game, abandoning the run and being unusually pass-happy in the red zone. This has to change not only against Mississippi State, but for the rest of the season. That was a disaster against A&M. It needs to lead to a sustained transformation of how Alabama goes about its business.

2 – Pass rush

Zach Calzada of Texas A&M played great, and he deserves credit for that. However, his offensive line made it easy for him, putting him in position to succeed. Alabama’s defensive line didn’t make Calzada uncomfortable. That’s unacceptable. The Tide need to bring the heat regularly against MSU quarterback Will Rogers and not let up.

3 – Bryce Young

The A&M loss was a team loss, and no, Bryce Young wasn’t the main reason Alabama lost. That said, his interception in the end zone was one of several massive mistakes which contributed to the Tide’s upset loss. Young needs to take command of situations. He did lead Bama back in the second half, giving the Tide a 38-31 lead, but his performance was still erratic and enough to give A&M multiple openings. The Aggies took advantage. It’s time for Young to rise to the standard Mac Jones set last year. He needs to grow as a leader, not just a passer, for the Tide to realize their potential this season.

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