Alabama's Saban Is Thinking Red

As Alabama approaches the mid-point of the 2009 football season, there is more attention to statistics. It's interesting that the Crimson Tide, which seeks balance in its offense, is averaging 228.2 yards per game rushing and 234.6 yards per game passing.

More than just interesting is a statistic on the other side. Alabama goes to Ole Miss Saturday, and statistics suggest if Bama allows the Rebels into the red zone—inside the 20-yard line—then Mississippi is going to score. In fact, score a touchdown.

Ole Miss has been in the red zone 14 times this year and has 12 touchdowns and two field goals.

Alabama will attempt to become the team with an answer to the Rebels' red zone success when the teams kick off in a key Southeastern Conference game at 2:30 p.m. CDT Saturday. CBS will televise the game. Alabama is 5-0 and ranked third in the nation. Ole Miss, the pre-season favorite to win the SEC Western Division is 3-1 and ranked 16th. The Crimson Tide is 2-0 in SEC games, the Rebels 1-1.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban was asked about the Ole Miss red zone success, and particularly how the Rebels' outstanding flanker, Dexter McCluster, figured into that success. McCluster often lines up at a running back position, including the wildcat spot.

"They do a good job of running the ball," Saban said. "Most good teams in the red area run the ball. They use him (McCluster) to run the ball sometimes in wildcat, sometimes in what we call rocket sweeps where he's going in motion and gets the ball on the run and gets to the edge. They do a good job scheme-wise.

"I think in that part of the field you especially have to be able to stop the run and create situations where they have to throw it and cover well enough so they can't score throwing against you.

"Last year (a 24-20 Alabama win) we did okay in the red area a couple of times and then they scored a touchdown on a fake field goal. That's something that's always important – being able to score touchdown in the red zone and defensively not allowing them to score touchdowns in the red zone.

"They've been very good. You watch the red zone tapes. We put all those on tape. Today was our day to work in the red zone.

"They are very effective in running the ball and staying ahead in down and distance and they are really, really good down there."

Alabama has allowed opponents into the red zone very few times this year, only six times in five games. But when opponents have reach the Tide 20, they have gone on to score touchdowns on four occasions and also have a field goal.

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