Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Midseason review: Alabama
By ESPN.com staff
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Record: 6-0 (3-0 SEC)
Six games down, and the Crimson Tide are still waiting for somebody to come within two touchdowns of them. LSU isn’t the only Western Division team that has flexed its muscles the first half of the season. So has Alabama, which is right behind LSU in the Associated Press and Harris Interactive Top 25 polls at No. 2 nationally. Who’s the better team? It’s all going to be settled on the field when the two teams meet on Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa. But nobody in college football has been more dominant than the Crimson Tide, especially these last three weeks. They’ve mowed through Arkansas, Florida and Vanderbilt by a combined score of 110-24. The most anybody has scored against them is 14 points, and it’s difficult to pinpoint a single starter on defense who won’t at least get a look in the NFL. There was a trace of concern about the offense when the season began, but sophomore AJ McCarron has separated from Phillip Sims in the quarterback derby and is coming off his best game. He was 23-of-30 for 237 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions last week against a Vanderbilt defense that had intercepted 14 passes coming into the game. The offensive line has returned to old-school Alabama football. The Tide lead the SEC in rushing offense (217 yards per game) and are pounding opposing defenses into submission in the second half. It took a while to find their best combination up front, but it looks like they’ve settled in with Barrett Jones at left tackle after he earned All-SEC honors at right guard a year ago. Senior center William Vlachos has also been a force in the middle of that line.
Offensive MVP: RB Trent Richardson. Go back and turn on the tape from the Florida game if you want to see how to run the football in this league. Richardson simply wouldn’t go down on the first hit and slugged his way to a career-high 181 yards against the Gators. He leads the SEC with 12 touchdowns, and at 224 pounds with track speed, is the kind of weapon every team would love to have in its backfield.
Defensive MVP: S Mark Barron. You couldn't go wrong with a handful of players on this defense. Outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw is tied for the league lead with 8.5 tackles for loss, and middle linebacker Dont'a Hightower leads the team in total tackles. But Barron is one of the best safeties in college football and a big reason Alabama's secondary is playing lights out right now. He's an excellent tackler, helps clean up mistakes, has a great nose for the ball and is the guy who makes it all go in the back end of a defense that gets more dominant every week.