It’s something as common as the games themselves: looking ahead. It isn’t hard to predict where a major college football team can get caught looking ahead: look at their schedule for a rivalry game or a game against another major or highly-ranked team, and then look at who they play the week before. If that game the week before matches that major team against a weaker team, that’s a probable look-ahead game. Tonight, the Alabama Crimson Tide have such a game.
To be fair, this is a special kind of potential look-ahead game, a potential look-ahead game by SEC standards. Next week, the Crimson Tide goes on the road for their biggest test of the year when they take on the LSU Tigers. Tonight, they are at home against the Mississippi St. Bulldogs. The Bulldogs are currently still undefeated and ranked just outside the top ten. Generally a look-ahead game features a much, much, much weaker opponent because the term look-ahead game comes from the big teams not taking the weaker team seriously and looking ahead to the bigger game the following week. While the Bulldogs aren’t that kind of weaker opponent, they can easily be perceived as such with people questioning how good they really can be despite their unbeaten record. Not to mention that in comparison to the Crimson Tide, maybe the Bulldogs are that much weaker despite their ranking.
No matter how you feel about the Bulldogs’ chances against the Crimson Tide later tonight, one thing still remains true: this could end up being a game where the Crimson Tide gets a tougher test than they’d like. The game in Baton Rouge next week is by far the more important game if you’d compare tonight’s game and next week’s game for the Crimson Tide. The Tigers are inside the top ten and still have national championship aspirations that are legitimate, the game is on the road for the Crimson Tide, and in one of the harder places to play a college football game in when you consider the Tigers’ active 20-plus game home winning streak. Compare that to tonight when the Crimson Tide plays in the friendly surroundings of home, and against a less physical team than the Tigers, but one that does force turnovers.
The fact that the Bulldogs are good at forcing turnovers may be the one thing that will keep the Crimson Tides’ focus steady in this one. The Bulldogs have forced a total of 21 turnovers this season (12 interceptions, 9 fumbles recovered). And while the Crimson Tide have one more INT’s than the Bulldogs for the season, that’s not the point. The point is that this is a defense that has gotten plenty of training for this game. Outside of the Tennessee Volunteers, the Crimson Tide will provide the Bulldogs’ defense with its toughest test. Looking at the Bulldogs’ schedule and you will see plenty of unproductive and just plain bad offenses. Yes this means that the Bulldogs could be in for a rude awakening when they get an offense as machine-like as the Crimson Tide’s, but it also means that they know how to make plays on defense and exploit the mistakes of their opponent’s offense because they’ve.
It’s very likely that the Crimson Tide will use tonight as another way to solidify their stature as the most dominant team in college football, a team that is on another level even from whatever team is ranked second to them at week’s end. This is the most likely scenario for tonight’s game between the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide. But that’s also why teams step on the field every week: the unknown. We can predict, speculate, and analyze every little point until we’re blue in the face, but all of it goes out the window once those two teams finally step on the field. If the Crimson Tide wants to prove that they are as historically dominant as they are appearing, they will set an example and not look ahead to the Tigers next week, focusing instead on ending the undefeated season of their opponent this week.