Sunday, August 31, 2014

Blake Sims shines as Alabama defeats West Virginia

Football, as in life, is essentially a mixed bag of breaks and opportunities. When it came to the Alabama/West Virginia contest, Blake Sims made the most of a well-earned opportunity and West Virginia received a plethora of bad breaks. When the contents were mixed together in a four quarter blender, the Crimson Tide held off the pesky Mountaineers by the score of 33-23.

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High Tide and low Tide

On the Alabama side of the equation, the two stories of note were the 250 yard passing performance by Blake Sims and UA's lackluster pass defense. While Sims, in his first collegiate start, played as solid as anyone could have dreamed, the Crimson Tide defense, especially the secondary, picked up where it left off against Oklahoma. If Sims had a dream debut, the Crimson Tide defense had a nightmare. Allowing 393 total yards, 365 through the air, Alabama's secondary is still one of the biggest question marks entering the second week of the season.


Four quarter Sims

In respect to the aforementioned Sims and the Alabama quarterback situation in general, Saturday's contest at the Georgia Dome belonged to the fifth-year senior. While Jake Coker did warm up on one occasion, the Florida State transfer was a spectator against West Virginia. Although Sims, especially early, missed a couple of open throws, he was calm and collected against the Mountaineers and appeared to feed off Lane Kiffin's stoic demeanor. In total, Alabama garnered 538 yards of total offense.


Super Cooooooooooper

As noted in the prior embedded tweet which included the outstanding ground efforts of Derrick Henry and T.J Yeldon, wide receiver Amari Cooper proved to be Blake Sims' primary target against WVU. In what looked like an audition for the Atlanta Falcons, Cooper grabbed essentially every pass thrown in his direction and concluded the game with statistics worthy of the Alabama record book.


West Virginia butterfingers

In respect to West Virginia, the Mountaineers probably deserved better. Perhaps even a victory. While the Alabama secondary seemed to allow big play after big play, WVU had several dropped balls that could have easily changed the complexion of the game. Granted, Blake Sims had a few missed opportunities as well, but West Virginia seemed to encounter a self-inflicted pitfall every other drive. When the day was done, quarterback Clint Trickett had thrown for 365 yards and one touchdown, but his numbers should have been better. For a bulk of the contest Alabama's best defense in the secondary came in the form of WVU wide receivers dropping catchable passes. Those speaking with an objective voice would likely agree.


Nick Saban's postgame presser

Coach Saban shares his overall thoughts on Alabama's hard-fought victory against West Virginia and provides an injury update in respect to wide receiver DeAndrew White.



Looking ahead

Nick Saban is a teacher, and with Alabama's mixed bag in terms of overall performance against West Virginia, Saban and his entire coaching staff now have a laundry list of things to improve upon as the Crimson Tide move forward.

It shouldn't take much film evaluation to notice that 'Bama's weakest link is found in the secondary in respect to pass coverage. Alabama, for whatever the reason(s), still look like deer in headlights when it comes to facing an uptempo air raid system. Too many times West Virginia receivers were essentially wide open. That fact alone makes the aforementioned point about WVU's dropped passes even more critical. Who knows how things would have played out had Trickett received some help.


After week one, Alabama is a good team. Perhaps a very good team, but certainly not a great team. Over the course of the next two weeks, against much inferior competition, the Crimson Tide should be able to work out the kinks before rejoining the fold in respect to clashing with formidable oppositions.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Game Preview: Alabama - West Virginia

The 2014 college football season has arrived and for the Alabama Crimson Tide, like so many times since 2008, that means a trip to the Georgia Dome to participate in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.

Having clashed with Clemson in 2008, Virginia Tech in 2009, and Virginia Tech once again in 2013, the Crimson Tide will now tangle with Dana Holgorsen's West Virginia Mountaineers.

Betting Line: Alabama -26 (as of 8/27)

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West Virginia Mountaineers

While the No. 2 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide will enter the Georgia Dome this Saturday with confidence and the expectations of yet another special season, the West Virginia Mountaineers are likely just searching for the right ingredients to guarantee a winning season.

After going 4-8 in 2013, 2-7 in the Big 12, and losing six of their final seven contests, the Mountaineers can only get better in 2014. While West Virginia does return starting quarterback Clint Trickett, the Mountaineers are still searching for a significant remedy on the defensive side of the ball. Giving up an average of 33.3 points per contest, West Virginia ranked 100th in the nation in respect to scoring defense in 2013.

On the positive side of life in respect to Saturday, West Virginia runs a high octane/air raid offense, the type of offense that has been known to give Alabama fits in recent years. Catching the Crimson Tide off guard will likely be a way for the Mountaineers to combat the fact they're simply not as talented, one-on-one, as Alabama.


Alabama Crimson Tide

The biggest talk around the Alabama program is the quarterback situation and rightfully so. Nick Saban, at least at the time of publication, has yet to confirm that Blake Sims will get the starting nod against West Virginia, but several reputable media outlets seem to think Sims is the man.

As was the case in the 2011 season opener when AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims juggled time, expect both Blake Sims and Jacob Coker to be utilized in a similar fashion against the Mountaineers.

In respect to the other aspects of the Crimson Tide when it comes to week one, Alabama's offensive line, though shaken up a tad due to injuries in preseason camp, should be quite formidable against WVU. However, chances do exist that UA's line could be in for a minor makeover during the first month of the season.

As was the case in 2013, the Tide secondary is once again a question mark, most notably the cornerbacks. Cyrus Jones and Bradley Sylve will get the start against West Virginia, and like most things, the proof will be in the pudding as to how long they're able to maintain those starting roles in the weeks to come. Alabama hasn't had a true lockdown corner since Dee Milliner in 2012.


Game nuggets

-West Virginia starting cornerback Ishmael "Ickey" Banks will miss the contest against Alabama due to suspension. Banks had 32 tackles and two interceptions last season.

-Per Nick Saban, linebacker Trey DePriest has been suspended for the contest against West Virginia due to a minor NCAA infraction. DePriest's suspension is only for one game.


-Per Nick Saban, offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will coach from the field.


-Jacob Coker stands between 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-6, while Blake Sims is only 6-feet tall. While many differences between Coker and Sims have been discussed, the issue of height, especially while standing in the pocket looking over the offensive line, is something that hasn't been discussed very much in the media, if at all. Will Sims have issues seeing downfield while standing in the pocket? It is certainly worthy of conversation and observation. As a point of reference, Johnny Manziel is also listed at 6-feet tall.


Prediction

While Alabama does have some questions, they're the type of questions that 99% of all teams in major college football would love to have.

Although West Virginia is a respectable opponent, and they should have a better season than the 4-8 campaign of 2013, the Mountaineers are simply light years away from Alabama when it comes to individual talent.

The Tide is almost a four touchdown favorite and that seems about right.

--- Alabama 38 West Virginia 10 ---