I don't know about you, but I'm still practically groaning from the total volume of Thanksgiving fare I shoveled down my beak the last two days. Four generous slices of pecan pie -- a personal favorite, and a major weakness -- in a span of 24 hours, well, there's no excuse.

When I haven't been forking, instead of working off the excess calories, I've been four-wheeler riding and parking in front of a big-screen TV filled with a bunch of football and basketball games.

Hope you've been up to much of the same and not suffering too much angst over the Alabama coaching situation.

While the powers that be sort out the merits and demerits of the Mike Shula regime, I thought it would be wise to reflect on the last few months and offer some of my own input into the Crimson Tide's head-shaking 6-6 season.

For starters, I think a great deal of the Tide's troubles originated on the line of scrimmage. To put it bluntly, Alabama got whipped in the trenches more often in its pick-em games than it did the whipping.

Perfect example: Mississippi State. The balance of that game was swayed in the pits, from State's first goal-line stand to its ball control in the last five and a half minutes.

And when I say pick-em games, I'm talking about pretty much everything outside Monroe and Florida International. Sadly for the Tide, that included the game against Duke, which surprisingly ran for more than 200 yards and led Alabama at the half.

Among the more frustrating results of this 2006 season was Alabama's inability to just stomp an undermanned team, convert every drive in the red territory into a touchdown, thrown up stonewalls on defense all day and send the home folks home beaming.

It never happened.

Alabama would tell you it never put together a 60-minute game. Some of us would wager they hardly had a 45-minute game.

Back to the trenches.

The offensive line didn't exert enough push time and again, particularly when things tightened up inside the 10-yard line. And the offensive coaches never fully committed to the running game all season for whatever reasons. Only in the Ole Miss game did Shula and David Rader call more running plays than passing plays, and Ken Darby kicked out his finest performance of the season, with 25 carries for 162 yards in that game.

Defensively, Alabama's front seven suffered through a significant dropoff from its 2005 production levels. The Tide doesn't have enough physical linebackers in its ranks and the situation doesn't appear appreciably better for next season.

The defensive line was not enough of a physical force. It did not generate much of a pass rush, did not stampede through gaps often enough, and did not seal the gaps against the run with enough authority this year.

It played OK within the Joe Kines system, which helped led to another solid rating in total defense. But the drastic loss in senior leadership clearly affected the front seven.

So the Crimson Tide must get beefier up front, as well as stronger. This is a strength-and-conditioning issue as well as a personnel issue.

The Tide must also get tougher, period.

When you're tough, you don't get stuffed repeatedly on three or four straight downs inside the 3-yard line, no matter how predictable your offense is.

Now that seniors Le'Ron McClain and Tim Castille are on their way out, perhaps the pitiful jumbo package will be gone with them. Of all the misfortune that struck the Tide coaching staff this season, their stubborn marriage to that short-yardage and goalline package ranked with the worst.

The jumbo was Shula's albatross in 2006.

How far it -- combined with the team's other failings -- brings him down we'll all find out in the coming days.

By the way, Alabama's bowl situation tightened up all the more with Miami's 17-14 win over Boston College on Thanksgiving night. The win qualified the 'Canes for bowl eligibility at 6-6, and if the Miami administration decides to go bowling, their likely destination is the MPC Computers Bowl in Boise, which was a fallback perch for the Crimson Tide.

This development puts all the more interest in Saturday's South Carolina at Clemson game. A Clemson win there assures Alabama a spot in the SEC's bowl lineup, while a South Carolina win relegates the Tide to the ninth spot out of the league. That means the Crimson Tide would need two league teams to be invited to BCS bowls to be assured of a bowl destination. Otherwise, it might be the Motor City Bowl or bust.

On hoops, Alabama coach Mark Gottfried has to be relatively pleased with his team's performances so far. While SEC cohorts have struggled and/or lost to mid-majors -- Tennessee looked awful losing to Butler -- the Crimson Tide was nowhere near perfect but still good enough to run the trio of Middle Tennessee State, Iowa and Xavier to win the Paradise Jam.

Alabama should have a smooth course until its Dec. 7 road game (and revenge-based return game) at Notre Dame. If the Tide can pay back the Irish that night, Gottfried might be guiding a top 5 team into league play at Arkansas.

Editor's Note: Thomas Murphy is the Alabama beat writer for the Mobile Register and a contributor to ‘BAMA Magazine and

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