In Search of a Star

For college football's chattering class, the bar for a team's season-opening patsy opponent is pretty low: push your weaker opponent around, build a steady, comfortable lead, use a lot of players, leave some room for improvement, and most importantly, avoid injuries.

Alabama did all those things Saturday in an easy 48-7 win over Kent State at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Crimson Tide outgained Kent State 482-90 in total offense. The defense was particularly dominant with four sacks yielding minus nine rushing yards. The offense exhibited a deep stable of running backs and two apparently capable quarterbacks.

In his post-game press conference, Head Coach Nick Saban hashed over the good and the bad, but his central message was that next week will tougher. Last year when Alabama played Penn State in game two of its season the Tide had an easy time of it. They won 24-3 in a muggy night game in Tuscaloosa.

The Nittany Lions beat Indiana State 41-7 Saturday. Bama travels to Happy Valley next week.

"There's a lot of things we need to do better," Saban said.

Notably, most of these things are on the offensive side of the ball. Saban said the offensive line has not been dominating the line of scrimmage like it should -- both in practice and at times in the running game Saturday. The number of turnovers -- four interceptions and a lost fumble -- also bothered Saban.

"Everyone needs to understand that we're not going against the same team next week that we played last year," he said. "They are going to be a better team and they are going to play better and it's going to be a huge challenge."

Alabama's longest play of the day was a 49-yard run by Jalston Fowler. While he, Eddie Lacy, and Trent Richardson combined for a decent rushing performance, there was no real star power from any of them today. And while both A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims looked decent at times they combined for four interceptions -- not a winning formula in the Southeastern Conference. In the receiving game, Marquis Maze was the leader with 8 catches for 118 yards -- but the absence of a Julio Jones like threat at receiver made an obvious difference.

"Maze did a good job catching the ball and in the return game," Saban said. "We need more players to step up on offense. We need more explosive players."

Alabama hit its mark for performance in a season opener. They will have to do more next week, though, as expectations will definitely rise. For the Tide to move forward the defense needs to continue to steadily dominate while the offense comes along. The offensive line needs to find the right mix of intelligent aggressiveness, while the quarterbacks need to shore up their decision-making. There are a couple of receivers who might add some offensive explosiveness, Saban said, presumably referring to Duron Carter and Darius Hanks, both of whom did not play today. But the question remains whether Alabama will find a new star.

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