Alabama did exactly what it needed to on Saturday night to have one foot in the College Football Playoff field with just a single game in the books. The Crimson Tide defense fired out of the gates, befuddling Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois and eventually knocking him out of the game. The goal in Week One was simply to advance and move on against one of the handful of teams that are seen as a legit threat to ‘Bama this season. Now, in Week 2, the fun really begins as the Crimson Tide hosts Fresno State.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Use this to open up the offense
It would never be fair to suggest Alabama only has to show up to win, but this FSU is a much different team in terms of skill and expectations to the FSU that Alabama beat so handily last weekend.
Fresno State is in full rebuild mode. They are coming off a 1-11 season with a new coach, new schemes on both offense and defense, and players that don’t necessarily fit the roles they are being asked to play. In their opener, the Bulldogs had a massive 66-0 win, but they played something called Incarnate Word, which is a relatively new FCS school in San Antonio, Texas. Last week the Crimson Tide offense was very one dimensional, this week it should be opened up so we can really see what Brian Daboll and his charges can do.
Smother on defense
The Alabama defense was outstanding first out last weekend. Now they get to play against a team with a questionable quarterback and a running back who weighs 170 pounds when he is soaking wet. If the Crimson Tide stays focused – and if the backups are as far along as Nick Saban believes – then the defense could easily pitch a shutout in this one.
To do just that the defense will need to be switched on at all times. In all honesty, holding Fresno State to zero points should be the goal here. It is hard to see the Bulldogs driving on Alabama, so their threat to score will come from big plays on offense and turnovers/special teams’ breakdowns. A smothering defensive performance will really announce to the nation that Alabama is Alabama in 2017.
Make plays on special teams again
Three huge plays on special teams last weekend turned a close game in the direction of Alabama. Saban – unlike many of the coaches out there – always uses his best players on special teams. It is coach into those players early in their time in Tuscaloosa that a special teams’ play is not a play off, rather that it is a play that can make an impact which changes the course of a game.
While it is unlikely that Alabama will need a massive performance on special teams to get out of a hole against the Bulldogs, willing the special teams battle will always make the work of the other two units much easier.