Five thoughts on Alabama's unexpected loss to Ole Miss, and five on where things stand entering a second consecutive road game at Arkansas.
Ole Miss 23, Alabama 17
1) One thing that doesn't add up about the Crimson Tide's loss in Oxford is this: The Crimson Tide piled up 396 yards of offense and scored one offensive touchdown. It doesn't add up, of course, because the Ole Miss defense stiffened when Alabama got into field goal range and forced three 3-point tries, two of which were missed. Not that 396 yards is a huge number -- it's about 200 less than Alabama's average entering the game -- but it's enough to win if you finish drives on grass with paint on it.
2) Tony Brown has every physical tool to be an outstanding cornerback at Alabama, but as Crimson Cover pointed out in last week's blog entry, Eddie Jackson's physical style would have been more suited to take on Rebels receiver Laquon Treadwell. Unfortunately for Alabama, Jackson wasn't quite right during the practice week as he continues to get past a quad muscle injury. Bo Wallace made a few outstanding throws that no cornerback could have defended, particularly a couple of back-shoulder beauties to Treadwell, but Alabama's defense needs a healthy Jackson to play at the top of its game.
3) There is no replacing Kenyan Drake, who we are told is definitely lost for the season with a gruesome injury, because Drake is a one-of-a-kind player. His explosiveness and straight-line speed will be missed, even though he was only a part-time player. Based on what we've seen early in the season, look for Tyren Jones to be the third back in the game going forward, over Altee Tenpenny.
4) It's a shame that special teams were such a major reason for Alabama's loss (see not only two missed field goals, but a fumbled kickoff return and poor kickoff coverage as well), because Tide punter J.K. Scott's outstanding performance was easily forgotten. Not here. He launched one punt 64 yards and another 60, and averaged 52 yards for the day. Scott is a flat-out weapon for the Alabama defense.
5) Cam Robinson absolutely dominated against the Rebels as a freshman left tackle. He is a rare talent and, like Andre Smith and Cyrus Kouandjio before him, could be just a three-year player with an exceptional pro future.
Alabama at Arkansas
1) The Crimson Tide's defense will finally get to play a team that will try to beat it with a power rushing attack, a rarity these days. Arkansas' offensive line averages nearly 330 pounds, the biggest line not only in the NCAA but bigger than any in the NFL as well. As such, some of the smaller, quicker defenders that Alabama employs against spread attacks could see less action this week.
2) There is no word on center Ryan Kelly's status yet for the game, but his sprained ankle needs to heal as quickly as possible for Alabama's offense to run at peak efficiency. Backup Bradley Bozeman got some valuable experience against Ole Miss, but the Crimson Tide needs a veteran handling checks and calls on the line, and a road game at Arkansas calls for an experienced snapper.
3) Arkansas has some quality players on its defensive front, including former Alabama recruit Darius Philon and defensive end Trey Flowers, but its secondary is suspect. Blake Sims should find Amari Cooper open more than he did against Ole Miss' secondary, which is far superior to the Razorbacks'. But he also needs to look for different targets on second and third reads as opposing defenses begin clamping down on Cooper's routes with safety help.