Alabama barely escaped Mississippi State in Starkvegas, needing a touchdown in the final minute to defeat the Bulldogs. If Dan Mullen hadn’t foolishly decided to unload the kitchen sink on a blitz on 3rd and 15, maybe the game goes to overtime. But no.
Alas the Tide are 10-0 and a victory over surging Auburn in the Iron Bowl away from playing for the SEC Championship. That game would be against Georgia.
The Tide appear to be headed toward the College Football Playoff for the fourth year in a row. The website 538 gives Alabama 69 percent of a chance of making the playoff. Given the chaos that could swirl around them, I’d skew a little lower than that, but the Tide are no doubt in a great position.
The injuries are significant. The schedule so far has been very soft. Alabama isn’t nearly as strong at stopping the run this year. There are legitimate problems.
I’d go so far as to call this Nick Saban’s worst team since 2010, when Alabama suffered road losses to South Carolina and LSU, plus lost to Cam Newton in a memorable Iron Bowl. The SEC was much stronger back then than it is now.
Alabama’s run defense sticks out most as a trouble spot that will be exploited by Auburn and Georgia … and then perhaps Ohio State or Oklahoma in the playoff.
The Tide finished #1 nationally in 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016 against the run, each year allowing fewer than 76 yards per game.
This year they’re 2nd at 75 yards per game, but that was mostly rung up against inferior competition. They’ve gotten worse lately as the linebacker injuries mounted. LSU gashed them for 151. Mississippi State ran wild for 172, and became the first team to rush for three TDs in the Nick Saban era in Tuscaloosa. Keeping the ball away from Jalen Hurts and the potentially explosive offense is paramount, and enabled both of those teams from hanging around.
Putting things in perspective: The Bulldogs hadn’t scored a TD against Alabama since 2014.