They eyes of the college football world will be on Dallas, Texas Saturday night as the Alabama Crimson Tide will take on The Michigan Wolverines. The 2012 version of Alabama Football will look to set the tone for the season, but in order to do so there are 3 things they must do.
1. Affect the quarterback
After a game against North Texas in 2009, Alabama’s team sack total was low and after being pestered for weeks, Alabama head coach Nick Saban proclaimed that getting pressure on opposing team’s signal callers was not about sacks, but rather affecting his style of play.
It will be crucial for Alabama to keep Denard Robinson in front of them and not let him escape the pocket, moving to the outside edges where he becomes very dangerous. While the Tide don’t want to be overly aggressive, they can’t afford to be too careful either. If you give Robinson too much time to dance around in the backfield, it could put a lot of strain on even the most talented secondaries.
I’d imagine the Crimson Tide will use a similar strategy used against the likes of Tyrod Taylor, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton and Jordan Jefferson. Against all of those quarterbacks Alabama didn’t have many sacks, but they took away the outside edge, nor would they allow them to make one guy miss and take off. It will be crucial for Alabama to collapse the pocket and force Robinson to try and run up the middle into the heart of the defense.
2. Grow Up Quickly in the Secondary
It is no secret Alabama’s secondary had some turnover from last year’s unit. Whether you want to call it rebuilding or reloading the question remains as to how the new starters will adapt to their new responsibilities.
Saban’s defense has been notorious for putting defensive backs on an island and not providing a lot of help. When the secondary is in top form, the entire defense is taken to another level. When Saban doesn’t have to commit extra guys to defending the pass, he and Kirby Smart are able to devise schemes that give opposing quarterbacks nightmares. However, if Alabama does need to aid their secondary, it will come at the expense of the defense’s notorious blitz schemes.
The good news for Alabama is unlike the 2010 season there is a veteran leader in the defensive backfield in Robert Lester. Without question, Lester, who is considered the “field general” will be called upon to not only play at a high level, but to make sure everyone else is on the same page.
3. Jump Out to an Early Lead.
Alabama comes into this game as a heavy favorite. In fact if you like to follow what the guys is Las Vegas think Alabama is a 14 point favorite. When you consider Alabama is such a heavy favorite heading into this contest and Michigan is playing the underdog role it will be important for the Tide to get things going early and often.
Alabama can not afford to start slow and let the Wolverines continue to hang around because with every minute Michigan hangs close with Alabama the momentum of the game will surely shift. The Crimson Tide have to set the tone early, and continue to attack; basically the same blueprint used throughout last year (yes even the Nov. 5th LSU matchup. I know Alabama lost but they definitely set a tone early and continued to play well, minus the missed field goals of course).
As Saban says “Start fast, finish strong.”