With the release of the College Football Playoff rankings of 2018, the Alabama Crimson Tide were no doubt deserving of the #1 ranking. With that 1st overall ranking, there came many critics and doubters on the legitimate and dominance of the Tide. Many believe that the Tide have not played a decent schedule considering their large margin of victory. That all changed last Saturday when Alabama made a statement in their win over number three LSU with a 29-0 score.
The Tide’s schedule and margin of victory is just fine
The Tide were winning games by a margin of 37.9 points before last Saturday’s matchup against LSU. Their margin of victory fell to 36.9 overall following their win over the Tigers. This, however, is a good margin considering the Tide played a Tigers defense that was ranked tied for seventh in the nation in scoring defense (15.1 points allowed per game). Alabama had a strength of schedule that is ranked 47th in the nation. The Tide were seven places behind the Clemson Tigers with a 40th ranked strength of schedule. The lowest margin of victory was 22-points to the Texas A&M Aggies. The Tide have a ranked matchup against the #18 Mississippi State Bulldogs then a matchup against Auburn two weeks later. If Alabama continues to win, they will receive the vote into the playoffs for the fifth time in a row.
The Tide’s strength of schedule now ranks 27th in the nation after their victory over LSU. Clemson has a strength of schedule that is ranked 58th in the nation due to the Louisville Cardinals (2-7) win. Among the other top teams in the nation, Notre Dame’s strength of schedule is 33rd, West Virginia’s strength of schedule is 45th, Ohio State’s schedule is ranked 49th, Washington State’s schedule is ranked 87th, and UCF’s schedule is ranked 110th. Only Michigan’s schedule (10th), Georgia (13th), and Oklahoma (22nd) are the only elite CFB teams that have a higher strength of schedule than Alabama’s.
Tagovailoa and the Tide offense is not perfect, but they are highly efficient
This past Saturday was a true test for the Tide as they faced the seventh-ranked scoring defense of LSU. Alabama didn’t come into this game with worry as they wanted to utilize their best players to their true potential. Running back Damien Harris’ impact with the Tide has been underutilized due to the devotion of the elite passing game. Harris had his best performance of the season by rushing for 107 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries for an average of 5.6 yards per carry. Overall, the Tide offense rushed for an average of 7.6 yards per carry and accounted for 281 rushing yards. The offensive line played one of their best games of the season as a unit.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa continues to amaze and explode at the most needed times for the Tide offense. Tagovailoa passed for 25 completions (out of 42 attempts) for 295 yards, two touchdowns, one interception (his first of the season), and an 82.4 QBR. He also rushed for 49 yards and a touchdown (44-yards) on three carries. Tagovailoa continues to put the Tide’s offense on his back as he continues to be one of the most efficient and explosive playmakers in the nation. Tagovailoa continues to spread the ball throughout the field by not favoriting a specific receiver or route.
After the game, the Tide’s offense rose more in every major statistic. They are ranked number one in points per game (51.3) as well as first in total yards per game (566). Additionally, they rank fifth in passing yards per game (341.6), 25th in rushing yards per game (224). They also check in ranking first in offensive efficiency (98), and 127th in most sacks allowed overall (6).
Tide’s defense looks back to their old roots
What made the Tide’s defense so efficient in the past couple of seasons is their efficiency in sacking the quarterback, stopping the run, and defending the pass. Alabama’s defense looked they played their best all season long in the game against LSU. Not only did the defense hold the Tigers offense to 196 total yards but they only allowed 12 rushing yards. The defensive line and blitzing linebackers were consistently in the backfield and all over Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow. Alabama’s defense accounted for five sacks and 10 tackles for loss, and seven pass deflections. Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams had a monster game with 10 total tackles (seven solo), 3.5 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks. Williams was all over the field making tackles up the middle and to the sidelines.
After the shutout victory in Baton Rouge, the Tide’s defense went from being ranked 16th in the nation in total yards allowed per game to being ranked 11th (295 yards). They also went from being ranked 21st in rush defense (113.4 yards allowed per game) to 11th (102.1 yards). Safeties Deionte Thompson Xavier McKinney continued to play excellent in zone coverage. Defensive back Saivion Smith played his best game of the season by playing efficiently in tight man-coverage against this talented LSU receiver corp. Smith finished with six total tackles, four solo tackles, and two pass deflections. True freshman cornerback Patrick Surtain II continued to provide consistency in lockdown man coverage against the pass. Linebacker Mack Wilson played more efficiently in zone coverages as he accounted for an interception in the end zone. This stopped a scoring drive for LSU.
Tide moving forward to the Mississippi State Bulldogs
Each week, the college football nation and the playoff committee will be breathing down the Tide’s neck. Everyone will be watching and waiting to see if they will slip up. If the Tide want to make to the playoffs without a scratch, they must avoid any potential upsets. This is what happened with the Tide last year in their loss to the Auburn Tigers in rivalry week. Even though the Tide have clinched an SEC Championship berth, they cannot overlook any more opponents. This Saturday, Alabama hosts Mississippi State (6-3). Last year, the Tide got a late 31-24 victory in Starkville, Mississippi. This was from a clutch catch-and-run touchdown from quarterback Jalen Hurts to wide receiver Devonta Smith.