Thursday, September 6, 2007

Your VSL Alabama-Vanderbilt Preview

We're going split state on this one, so try and follow along. RollBamaRoll's post on what they expect to see on Saturday will appear tomorrow.

Seamus O'Toole's Takes:

1. My biggest fear is that the Commie coaching staff will be more reactionary than proactive, waiting to see what Alabama puts out there instead of attacking with a game plan and just making adjustments where necessary. E.g., will Alabama play more 3-4 than 4-3?

2. Look for the long ball from Nickson to Bennett. The staff has made no secret that that's going to be part of every game plan this year, getting the ball deep to Earl and letting him work his magic. Expect the Tide secondary to be tested relentlessly.

3. If it were me I'd be looking to blitz as much as possible and vary the defensive sets to throw Alabama's offense off. I expect CBJ & Co. know that our D-linemen don't stack up particularly well against Bama's ridiculous offensive line. The Tide are a potent offense and playing them nose to nose will only put us on our heels. Attack through blitz packages and you can force them out of their comfort zone (of bowling right over us). A Bobby drop in: Blitzing will also test the Alabama's extremely green offensive coordinator Major Applewhite...can he adjust to the packages CBJ (and Seamus) throw at them?

4. The Richmond game, unfortunately, didn't tell us very much. Earl Bennett caught 13 passes for 223 yards and 3 TDs, and had 63 punt return yards to be SEC Player of the Week -- but we already knew he's nasty. Special teams was better than at most times last year but we gave up a 93-yard kickoff return for a TD and still missed a makable field goal. The defense looked much better in the second half but that doesn't negate the fact that it struggled against a 1-AA opponent in the first half. Which brings up the overarching point: Richmond might be a good scrimmage game, but it's not the best gauge of how good a team we are. This is the week that will determine that. This is the game that will set the tone for the rest of the season.

Bobby O'Shea's Things to Watch For
1. The match-up between Earl Bennett and Alabama¹s CB Simeon Castille is going to be a great one. His Name Is, is the playmaker for the Commies and this team successes will, in large part, depend on getting Earl the ball. Unlike in years past, EB has some help. With an experienced offensive line, 3 running backs with SEC experience, two receivers to compliment His Name Is, and a QB who can great off a run for 40 yards at any time, this is the most complete and potent Commodore attack in years, maybe ever. For all the wheels to turn though, Earl's got to be at the center of things. Which brings us to Castille. Simeon Castille is considered by many, if not most, to be the best cornerback in the SEC. While he has a tendency to get beat at
times, he is nothing if not a worthy adversary for His Name Is. Beyond Castille, Bama's secondary is relatively inexperienced (see Seamus' 2 note if you don't think we have drank the same Kool-Aid). If Nickson can get his favorite target going early, it's possible that the Commies can take advantage. But again, that all starts with Earl.

2. My big question is, one year and one game into their careers as starting quarterbacks in the SEC, who has developed more, John Parker Wilson or Chris Nickson? In last year's game, JPW was 18-29 for 207 yards, with Chris connecting on 15-23 for 140 yards; neither breakout performances. What a difference a year makes. With both if these guys looking to lead their teams to their respective promised lands, Saturday's match-up will be a early test to see if either of these guys has what it takes. In the interest of full disclosure, Chris Nickson has thrown for over 250 yards in 4 of his last 5 games (Richmond, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Florida), can he make it 5 out of 6?

3. My biggest concern is whether Vanderbilt's defensive line can get any pressure against Alabama's beast of an offensive line. Not only are the Commies not deep up front, but they are not as talented certainly not compared to the Tide's. If Theo Herrick's isn¹t 100% it is very possible Vanderbilt will get run all over. Just as Earl is the key on the offensive side of the ball, I think the defensive line is where it all starts for CBJ's guys. If the defensive line can get some pressure and stop the run, it will allow Vanderbilt¹s nasty line backing corps to roam and wreck havoc, and take pressure off a secondary that is still a question mark.

4. Special Teams will continue to be the thing Commie fans have to watch (and hold their breathe on). While Bryant Hanhfeldt had 2 touchbacks against Richmond, despite the kicking off from the 30 (a new rule this year that I think is awful), Richmond still ran one back. The Spiders average starting field position was the 31, which is not bad when you consider they had a 93 yard return for a TD. Still Bama ain't Richmond.

5. How will Prince Hall (LB) and Keith Brown (WR) look coming off their suspensions? The Gordon Gee of college football coaches has made it pretty clear that both these guys are in his dog house. Here's what RollBamaRoll said during our weekly SEC conference call earlier this week:
They've been reinstated, but Brown seemed like he was struggling to hold onto his starting spot during the fall with Mike McCoy wowing everyone, so McCoy could get that start again over KB. Everyone was a little shocked that Saban released a depth chart for the opener, but the general consensus is that's the only one he'll be releasing all season, so we'll have to wait and see if Brown is back as a starter or not. Saban made it known that he and Hall were in the dog house when he lifted their suspension and were going to have to compete for their positions against the guys who took their place Saturday (Mike McCoy started over Brown, and Rolando McClain over Prince Hall). Hall will probably be on the field at one of the MLB spots alongside McClain, but, like I said, most people thought McCoy had worked his way into the starting job during fall even before Brown was suspended, so who knows with him.

Finally, VSL's Prediction: Vanderbilt is a 3 1/2 point dog at home. Take
Vanderbilt and the points.
Final score: Vanderbilt 20 ­ Alabama 17.


Aaron said...

i nominate the staff at VSL as graduate assistant coaches at Vandy, good work and great analysis

Anonymous said...

All the pressure here is on Saban and the Tide. You don't get paid that much money to lose to Vanderbilt in your first conference game, in front of your own fans to boot. I mean no disrespect by saying that. That's just how people in Alabama see it.

Saban will get his comeuppance this year. But it's going to take a team with more depth and athleticism, especially up front, to make this happen.

Alabama 34
Vanderbilt 17

Boyer in the District said...

If Vandy doesn't knock 'em off, just be ready for McFadden and Jones to run HOG WILD on the 'Bama defense come 9-15.

Anonymous said...

The DOC didn't do his research properly. He overlooked that Vandy is actually playing at home. This doesn't change anything. He's sticking with his prediction. Alabama will go for 30-plus points, and the fourth quarter will be particularly ugly for the black and gold.

Woody said...

Seeing as how it's college football season, Doc, everyone is entitled to their wrong opinion.

Gotta go with the Commies this weekend. I'll leave the analysis to the Bobby and Seamus, but we played 'em close last year in their house (with giving up 4 turnovers), we have a better team this year, and we're at home (I hope).

Besides, you can't actually root for Saban, can you? Isn't that kind of like pulling for Benedict Arnold?

Vandy: 31
Bama: 28

Anonymous said...

John P. Wilson can not beat Vanderbilt. Repeat: John P. Wilson can not beat Vanderbilt.

Contain Alabama's running game, i.e., no big plays, and Vanderbilt will win.

Anonymous said...

A) John Parker Wilson already has beaten Vanderbilt.

B) John Parker Wilson's brother was on "Two A Days." REPEAT: John Parker Wilson's brother was on "Two A Days."

(Does anyone else out there think Alabama should have thought harder about giving Coach Probst the job?)

"Don't get mad, I'm only bein' real." -- Snoop Dogg

Boyer in the District said...


Anonymous said...

Thought experiment:

Ceteris Paribus: Wilson or Nickson as your starting QB?

(That's "all other things being equal" for the 'bama faithful)

Boyer in the District said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I'm going with Boyer's answer. And it's a stupid question.

I'm not a member of the Bama faithful either. I'm a UNC guy. And if I had my druthers, I'd have Ty Lawson, Marcus Ginyard and Wayne Ellington in the backfield setting up in a single wing formation. As it is, the Heels will be lucky to get of ECU alive tomorrow.

Boyer in the District said...

Darren McFadden

Bobby O'Shea said...

Nickson, definitely

Anonymous said...

dr mz, an unrelated question I've always wondered about:

how did LT get away from bigger powers and end up in Chapel Hill?

Anonymous said...

I think it's because most schools that recruited him were thinking he was going to be an undersized defensive lineman. UNC moved him back to linebacker and he started wrecking house -- and doing lots of coke.


BP said...

You guys thought this team would win HOW many games? Jeez, they looked AWFUL today. Downright AWFUL.

The team I saw today will not win an SEC game this year outside of Ole Miss (and after what I saw today, even that one's not guaranteed).


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