All season long Alabama has been chasing an identity, but on Saturday the Crimson Tide might have to confront that identity on the field.
“I would say they [Georgia] look a lot like some of our teams of the past,” coach Nick Saban said. “They play with a lot of toughness and they’re very aggressive on both sides of the ball.”
On Saturday, the Crimson Tide will travel to Athens to take on the Bulldogs. No. 8 Georgia is currently the second highest ranked SEC team in the country behind only No. 4 Ole Miss.
Before Alabama could begin preparation for its second SEC game, the Crimson Tide hosted Louisiana Monroe last weekend. It was only the third time Alabama played a FBS opponent the week following a loss since 2011.
“I think how you respond to the loss says a lot about your character,” Saban said. “They learned from the loss. I think we’ve gotten better. I just think it’s important for us to continue to do that.”
One position that seems to be experiencing growing pains more than others is the receiving corps. Saban said the receivers dropped six passes in Alabama’s last game.
Robert Foster was making the case that he was going to be Alabama’s main receiving threat before he went down with an injury against Ole Miss. Now younger guys like Calvin Ridley, Cam Sims and others will have to contribute more to the offense going forward.
“Losing Robert Foster really hurt us at that position,” Saban said. “I think it’s just a matter of repetition and learning curve for those guys in terms of feeling confident and aggressive at what you’re supposed to do.”
Alabama might not have much time left to grow up. For the first time since 2009 odds makers have set Alabama as the initial underdog, and this also happens to be Alabama’s first true road game of the season.
“This will be a much bigger challenge for them, playing on the road and playing one of the better teams in the country, if not one of the best,” Saban said.
How everyone plays this weekend will tell Saban a lot about the identity of this year’s team. The offense has proven that it can run the ball, but the passing game has been inconsistent in the past four games. On Saturday quarterback Jake Coker and his young receiver corps will face one of the SEC’s top pass defenses.
“I think Jake has improved and played well,” Saban said. “He has gotten more confident and I think he’s playing with a little more passion about what he’s doing rather than thinking about what he’s doing, which is a really good thing.”
The defense has looked sharper than the offense has this season, but that unit will be tested as well. There is no cheat sheet for a balanced team like Georgia.
“Greyson Lambert has done an outstanding job for them at quarterback,” Saban said. “He’s been very efficient, one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country, and [he] has created a tremendous amount of balance for them. They do have one of the best running games in the country.”
Alabama can’t afford to slow down this week. Not when running back Nick Chubb is waiting for the Crimson Tide on Saturday, and not when the team needs to potentially win out to remain in SEC race.
“I think our team is excited about the challenges that we have and certainly want to focus on the things that we need to do to go over there and be able to play the best game possible,” Saban said.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports