CFN’s Instant Analysis of No. 1 Alabama’s 12-10 victory over Tennessee:
Not a passing grade
You’re not going to be able to hide Greg McElroy forever, Alabama.
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The running game was fine, the defense was terrific up until the last few minutes and Terrence Cody saved the day with his two blocked field goals, but to be a national champion, which is what Alabama is shooting to be, it needs its passing game to do far more than dink and dunk.
McElroy, who acknowledged having a confidence problem this week, completed 18 of 29 passes for a mere 120 yards, taking few chances down the field and not making any dangerous throws. At some point, the Tide will need its passing game to do something more than just be along for the ride, and while the team got away with it this week, there could be problems against LSU, at Auburn and in the SEC championship against Florida if McElroy doesn’t get better in a big hurry.
With a defense like Alabama has, McElroy should be taking more chances and trying to do more crazy throws to get the ball to Julio Jones deep. If he throws a pick, who cares? ‘Bama has the nation’s top D (at least going into the Tennessee game) and will overcome almost every mistake, and there’s no reason to think it can’t come through time and again. The Tennessee game shouldn’t have come down to two blocked field goals, and if there isn’t more pop from the offense, the dream season could go kaput.
— Pete Fiutak
Fix the offense
Mount Cody has never risen to greater heights in one of the most memorable endings in the long rivalry between Alabama and Tennessee. However, if the Tide can’t fix what ails the offense, especially in the red zone, it is not winning a national championship.
‘Bama survived on the strength of the defense and a pair of blocked field goals from Terrence Cody, but the offensive problems don’t seem to be going away. It’s become the Leigh Tiffin show in Tuscaloosa. He’s the team’s place-kicker. That’s not a good thing. It hasn’t cost the Tide a game so far this season, but if it can’t start trading some of those field goals for an occasional touchdown, it’s liable to go down before even getting to the SEC championship game.
What’s happened to QB Greg McElroy, who looked like a worthy successor to John Parker Wilson not too long ago? It doesn’t help that the offense has been unable to develop a complement to Julio Jones in the passing game.
Alabama is still unbeaten and on target for a shot at reaching all of its preseason goals. Staying on that course, though, will require more than Tiffin and RB Mark Ingram when points and offensive production are needed.
— Richard Cirminiello
1. Tiffin > Kiffin. It’s boring to say this, since the Southeastern Conference now seems as though it has reverted to its pre-Steve Spurrier days (pre-1990), but it’s true: The kicking game was the difference on Saturday, with Mount Cody climbing the heights on two blocked field goals. Plain and simple.
2. The other big difference in this contest was Lane Kiffin’s coaching in the final not-so-frantic minute. One of the strangest and most head-scratching habits of so many FBS coaches is the propensity to settle for a long field goal at the end of a game instead of working into closer range.
Everyone knew Tennessee kicker Daniel Lincoln was short on a 47-yard field goal try late in the second quarter, so when the Vols reached the Alabama 28 with just under a minute left in regulation, the Children of the Checkerboard had a golden chance to work the ball inside the 20 or 15.
Critics will say: “Isn’t Jonathan Crompton your quarterback?” The response to that point is: “Crompton just made a ballsy and beautiful throw to get to the ‘Bama 28.”
Moreover, the reality of a long field goal means a kicker has to use a lower trajectory on the kick, which means Terrence Cody can (once again) become a factor. Yet, in light of this mountain of evidence, Kiffin the Son (not to be confused with dynamic dad Monte) chose to run clock and settle for a 44-yard field goal. As Bugs Bunny famously said: “And remember: Mud spelled backwards is ‘dumb.’ ”