Chat with Alex Scarborough
Welcome to TideNation! On Thursday, reporter Alex Scarborough stops by to chat about the state of Alabama football.
Scarborough joined ESPN.com in 2012 after covering University of Alabama athletics and high school football for The Tuscaloosa News. He currently resides in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Send your questions now and join Scarborough Thursday at noon ET!
Alex Scarborough (12:00 PM)
Welcome for another hour dedicated to all things Alabama football. I'll try to answer your questions in a timely fashion so I'll dispense with pleasantries and get right into it.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
What Bowl Game will Alabama Play in this season?
Alex Scarborough (12:01 PM)
If the Tide beat Georgia, the BCS National Championship. If the Tide lose to Georgia, they drop all the way out of the BCS bowl picture.
Tommy Bryant (New Smyrna Beach, FL)
I've heard a few people say Georgia's RB tandem is better than Bama's... What's your take on that?
Alex Scarborough (12:06 PM)
It's hard to say who has the best tandem of backs. The Gurshal combo is unique in that Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are different running backs, Gurley the bigger body and Marshall the shift, burner. Alabama's T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy are more similar, between the tackles guys. The numbers indicate Georgia's combo is better, but by a small margin. If you're twisting my arm to make a decision, I'll wiggle out of it and say this: Give me Alabama's backfield as a whole. I'm tempted to take Gurley and Marshall because they're young, but when I see Yeldon's potential, Lacy's experience and project Kenyan Drake's production over the next three seasons, I have to side with those wearing crimson.
Darren (Decatur, Georgia)
Alex, despite these past few weeks Georgia's defense has struggled to contain great running games for the most part. Is there any reason to believe BAMA's O-line can't control the trenches? Also, please tell me Nussmeier won't take this "balance" thing too serious. If run is working, stay with it.
Alex Scarborough (12:09 PM)
I suspect we'll see a healthy dose of the running game, but I've said that before and been wrong. And don't be so quick to pin this all on Nussmeier. We all know how involved Saban is with the game-planning and how he spent all offseason talking about the need for more explosive plays on offense. His fingerprints are on this, too. That said, I like Alabama's offensive line in this game, especially in the running game. Too much experience and talent not to control the line of scrimmage, even against a very good Georgia front seven.
With the recent loss of Kenny Bell, how successful do you think the Tide will be at balancing their offense?
Alex Scarborough (12:14 PM)
I don't know how much effect Bell's loss will have on the balance of the offense as a whole. I don't expect to see a drop off in the number of pass attempts from AJ McCarron. But in terms of the passing game specifically, yes, Bell's loss hurts. He was Alabama's best deep-play threat, but Amari Cooper and Kevin Norwood don't have any problem catching long passes either. The debut of freshman Chris Black could be the injection of speed Alabama needs this weekend with Bell gone. Black is a pure slot receiver -- quick, nimble and fast. Just remember that while Black is very talented, this will be his first game in an Alabama uniform, so temper your immediate expectations.
Do the holes in the secondary show their ugly head this weekend?
Alex Scarborough (12:19 PM)
I'm assuming you're referring to Alabama's secondary woes -- well, "woes" may be a strong word. The Tide are still No. 3 in the country in pass defense. ... But anyways, I think the secondary is likely the No. 1 concern among Alabama fans and rightfully so. Just remember what Zach Mettenberger did to Alabama, throwing for 298 yards. He's nowhere near the passer Aaron Murray is. Even Jonathan Wallace was able to make a few big passes for Auburn on third down. That's why I believe this will be both the secondary's and defensive line's most important game to date. The secondary will have to play their best to stop Murray and the passing game, while the defensive line must get more pressure on the backfield to limit the amount of time Murray has to sit back and survey the field.
The way I see it these 2 teams are very similar offensively. Bama has a better OL, UGA has better WRs. On D they are both loaded. Doesn't this game basically come down to QB play?... who doesn't make mistakes?
Alex Scarborough (12:22 PM)
It very well could. Murray has struggled on the big stage in his career. Even this season he's had poor performances against Florida and South Carolina, arguably the best defense's he's seen. Has he turned a corner? I don't know. He trails only McCarron in terms of passing efficiency. That's why I believe this game won't come down to the play of the quarterbacks, at least not directly. This game will be about the line of scrimmage and how both offensive lines are able to protect their quarterback and move the ball on the ground.
Alexander Tharpe (Saint Simons island)
do you think Bama will dominate the line of scrimmage on offense/defense? how crucial is this for Alabama?
Alex Scarborough (12:24 PM)
I don't think we'll see something like a "dominating" performance from either the O-line or the D-line. Georgia is just too talented and sizable for that to happen. Is it crucial that Barrett Jones and Co. play well? Of course. They'll need to protect McCarron from Jarvis Jones and John Jenkins. And as far as the defensive line, Jesse Williams and Co. will need to play their best. They can't allow Gurley and Marshall to get off in the running game, nor can they give Murray time to sit back and find the open receiver.
Admittingly, I have not watched a Georgie game this year. However, I keep hearing about their o-line. Can our front 7 get pressure on Murray and get him rattled early? They haven't been great this year.
Alex Scarborough (12:26 PM)
That's one of the keys to this game, in my opinion. Alabama hasn't been great at getting pressure on the quarterback this season and Nick Saban and Kirby Smart will have to find a way to fix that on Saturday. Expect to see a few more blitzes than we're used to but not many. They're not going to leave their young defensive backs on an island.
Bill (Mobile, Alabama)
Alex, don't you agree that if the Tide take care of Georgia, they will destroy Notre Lame? I think we win 28-3 or something like that.
Alex Scarborough (12:27 PM)
No. Notre Dame is better than people think, much better. Laugh all you want at the non-SEC teams, but the Irish have size and a great defense.
Bama hasn't played a team with WRs like UGA. With Bama's pass rush not being as great as the past few years it seems this could be a problem. Both LSU and A&M sliced and diced this same D. If UGA comes out with 4 wides and goes to quick, safe passes early I really worry about Bamas ability to stop it.
Alex Scarborough (12:29 PM)
Your premise doesn't quite carry. Tennessee's wide receivers are better than Georgia's. Period. Now has Alabama faced a more balanced team than Georgia? No. That's where the problem is. It's hard to scheme against an offense that can attack you in so many ways.
Is there one machup that you think will be a good one to watch?
Alex Scarborough (12:30 PM)
Jarvis Jones against Alabama's offensive tackles. He's a fun player to watch.
I think the game rest with AJ,...He was obviously tight in the LSU game and still rusty in the TAMU game.He was much better at delivering the ball in stride against Auburn.If BAMA can keep the ball offensively and put just a few points on the board, I think BAMA wins, but if it's another dismall 3 and out like vs. LSU and TAMU, then it's another long evening.
Alex Scarborough (12:33 PM)
I'm not sure how "tight" McCarron was against LSU. He's played in big games like that before. Something else was at play if you ask me. And Texas A&M, that was just a bad performance all the way around. Not to be overly negative, but anyone -- and I do mean anyone -- could carve up the Auburn secondary this season. Maybe that game was the boost of confidence McCarron needed to get back on track, or maybe it was just a case of a team being overmatched. Either way, I'm not reading too much into it.
Do you agree with the decision to play Chris Black?
Alex Scarborough (12:34 PM)
It's a very tough call. It's hard to justify burning a redshirt for two games, even if those two are the SEC title game and a bowl game, potentially the national championship. But if Black wants to play and the staff feels he can contribute, then I say go for it. These games are why you play the rest of the season so you might as well take advantage when they matter most. It's quality not quantity, as they say.
Mark (South Carolina)
Alex. do you think Saban will study the footage from the South Carolina-Georgia game and use some of the same schemes South Carolina did against Georgia to help stuff Georgia's running game?
Alex Scarborough (12:36 PM)
I'd be surprised if he didn't, but South Carolina's and Alabama's personnel on defense are very different. If he had the pass-rushers the Gamecocks do, this defense would be scary.
Dale Gammage (Atlanta, GA)
If we lose Kirby Smart to TN, AK or AU, what affect will that have on our defense going forward? I.e., since Saban is a defensive guy at heart, will he take the reins of the defense to ensure continued dominance?
Alex Scarborough (12:37 PM)
It will have an effect, but I'm not sure to what extent. It all depends who Saban would find as his replacement. I think the biggest loss if Smart were to leave would be in terms of recruiting. He's one of the best in the country in that respect.
Cathy (San Diego)
I haven't slept well all week with you ESPN guys and your talk of a Georgia upset. What's up with that. Please Just tell me all the reasons my Tide is going to WIN. Starting with our great O line and #71 Cyrus. (go DeMatha Grads)
Alex Scarborough (12:40 PM)
The offensive line is probably your best reason why Alabama can win. If they play up to their ability, Alabama will have no trouble moving the ball and scoring points. On the other side of the ball, Alabama's defense must force Murray into a few turnovers. And judging by how he's played in big games in his career, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect an interception or two. If he gives the ball away, it's hard for me to believe Alabama doesn't win this game.
Is there any chance that Black dresses out but we do not use him or is it a for sure that he will be playing?
Alex Scarborough (12:41 PM)
It sounds as if he will play. Saban said as much last night. But don't rule out him dressing out and the staff waiting to see if the game dictates he plays.
If AJ McCarron has a spectacualr game against Georgia, does this get him an invite to New York for Heisman award?
Alex Scarborough (12:41 PM)
No. He lost too much momentum against LSU and Texas A&M. It's Johnny Manziel's show from here on out.
So what is your prediction for the game?
what is your prediction on the bama and georgia game
What's your prediction for the game?
Alex Scarborough (12:44 PM)
Austin, David, John and others: This game is a toss up in my eyes. I expect Alabama to play conservative on offense and wait for Georgia and Aaron Murray to give the ball away. I expect Alabama to win by a touchdown or two, but I can easily see it going the other way. Alabama's secondary has had issues and Georgia has the pass-rush on defense to get to McCarron and throw off the offense.
Tommy (Troy, AL)
This was supposed to be a rebuilding season and I believe that Alabama over-acheived this year. That's really good for the Tide. What kind of year do you expect next year? I'm a Bama fan but I think we have an easier schedule next year than we had this year and should make it to the NCG again. What's your thoughts?
Alex Scarborough (12:47 PM)
As far as whether it's an easier schedule, I can agree with that, though a lot of things fell Alabama's way this year, most notably quarterbacks like Tyler Wilson and James Franklin being out. That said, I don't think it's a clear cut thing that Alabama returns to the NCG picture next season. Just remember what all Alabama is likely to lose on both the offensive and defensive line. Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and likely D.J. Fluker are gone. There are three NFL draft picks and possibly two first-rounders. And on defense Jesse Williams, Damion Square and Quinton Dial all exit. There are capable backups in the wings, but it's hard to replace that kind of experience.
TN has 2 good WRs and nothing else. UGA has 4-5 guys plus Gurshall are really good in the pass game. TEs too. Your premise is the one that doesn't add up.
Alex Scarborough (12:51 PM)
I'm not so sure about that. UGA TEs Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome have 34 catches and three touchdowns combined. Mychal Rivera has 36 catches and five touchdowns by himself.
I don't understand the concern over Chris Black's redshirt. IF he can contribute to a National Championship run, this is why you come to Alabama. Who knows where we will be in four years.
Alex Scarborough (12:53 PM)
That's the other side of the argument.
Jeff H (Huntsville, AL)
Question about redshirting and Chris Black. If Black dresses for the game Saturday but does not play does that burn his redshirt or does he actually have to play in the game?
Alex Scarborough (12:53 PM)
He has to play.
Dear Alex the way I look at this game is a game of who runs the ball better. The o-line for bama has received so much hype this year (deservedly so) but I noticed how Barrett Jones was getting beat to the spot by the Texas AM nose guard and stringing out plays. Does GA have the speed to do the same or are they more built for size
Alex Scarborough (12:54 PM)
Georgia does have the size and speed to match up with Alabama's offensive line. Barrett Jones hasn't been perfect, but he hasn't needed to be. He'll have his toughest challenge to date on Saturday. John Jenkins is a load in the middle of the defense.
Vinni Sunseri seems to have been picked on by LSU and TAMU. Have teams picked up a flaw in his game/coverages, or did he just have a tough stretch?
Alex Scarborough (12:55 PM)
I'm ready to call it a trend. He's great at playing the ball when it's in front of him. When it's in the air, not so much. Expect to see more of Nick Perry (if healthy) and Geno Smith in pass coverage situations.
I know as a Bama guy, you probably won't answer this, but how did Alabama manage to draw Missouri and Kentucky in back to back years as their one non-traditional out of division SEC opponent, while LSU was given South Carolina and Georgia. Is it any wonder people across the conference think Bama is given preferential treatment by the league office (which is located in Birmingham)?
Alex Scarborough (12:58 PM)
I'll try and answer it, though it's hard to argue with the fact that Alabama lucked out in the game of pulling straws. As someone who is not a "Bama guy" but does enjoy good, competitive games, I think it's unfortunate they won't play Florida or South Carolina or Georgia during the regular season, though if Tennessee were playing better I'm not sure if we'd be having this conversation.
Mike (Birmingham, AL)
We only played 4 winning teams all season, and next year is going to be easier? Why don't they just hand us the trophy now?
Alex Scarborough (1:00 PM)
Alabama starts off with Virginia Tech in the Dome and then travels to Texas A&M two weeks later (they're only getting better, folks) before facing an improved Ole Miss team at home. That's a pretty tough way to start a year if you ask me.
Alex Scarborough (1:01 PM)
Whew. That hour flew by. I wish I had more time to answer your questions, but I guess we'll have to wait until next week. Stop by TideNationESPN.com and visit the forum if you want to chat more about Alabama football. I'm always there to answer questions or respond to any comments you all might have. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the week and have fun watching the games on Saturday.