We all knew that the Crimson Tide offensive line would have some growing pains. They only had to replace over 100 starts of experience and three NFL draft picks - two that were picked in the top 15 overall. It will take some time and experience to develop chemistry between these new Alabama starters.
Three new starters and two returning players showed that, when a strong defensive front brings pressure - like Virginia Tech’s did in Alabama’s 35-10 win on Saturday - holes are exposed and the Crimson Tide’s prototypical pro-style offense had trouble getting into a rhythm.
“We have to create an identity as a team and I don't think that we did that maybe in all phases of the game today,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said, after the game. “But at least we know where we are. We know what we need to do to improve.”
The opportunity that presents itself for Saban and his coaching staff is that he would rather have problems to fix, lessons to teach and time to get the team refocused after a questionable performance than have to try and contain emotions after a 60-0 win. Peaking too early won’t be a problem for this team, and Saban will avoid as much hype as he can throughout the season.
“We have a bye week coming up,” Saban said. “Certainly we'll look at this film and make a lot of corrections.
“If we're going to have a good football team, we're going to have to improve as a team. We're going to be technical about in terms of how we approach our players and what they do.”
The advantage of the bye week is obvious: Give Saban time to prepare and he will remove the fun from any opponent in college football, even ones with defending Heisman Trophy winners. The disadvantage of this free week for Alabama, however, is that this new group of linemen and running backs isn’t given the opportunity to get in-game experience. Practices help, but as was seen in the Virginia Tech game, the offense isn’t all there yet. Johnny Manziel will play the second and third halves of his 2013 season this coming Saturday, while Alabama will work out its offensive kinks against its own defense.
During the next two weeks, just like every other week this season, Saban will make this team focus on its mistakes and make the players realize that they aren’t the team of last year, or the year before, or of 2009. They haven’t earned anything yet. And as they prepare for the latest “Game of the Century” and prepare for their bye week opponent with the fury of a real one, the mistakes made against Virginia Tech won’t be made again.
The scary thing about Alabama, and the rest of the college football world, is the fact that the Crimson Tide didn’t play that well against Virginia Tech and still won by a margin of 25 points. Take away Christion Jones’ two special teams touchdowns and it’s 21-10. Take away Vinnie Sunseri’s interception for a touchdown and it’s 14-10. Every scenario still ends in a win for the Crimson Tide.
If you’re a future opponent of Alabama, you want to play this team early in the season. If this game against Virginia Tech is an example of them struggling, what will it look like when everything comes together?