Instant Analysis: Alabama 33, West Va 23

Instant Analysis: Alabama 33, West Virginia 23. Is WVU better or is Alabama a bit sluggish? Maybe both.

By Russ Mitchell
Follow me @russmitchellcfb

Well that raised as many questions as it answered.

On the positive side, quarterback Blake Sims was steady. Not spectacular, certainly – he overthrew several receivers, had an interception on his own side of the field, and at times appeared to make new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin want to pull his hair out.

But overall the fifth year senior from Gainesville, GA was unruffled, going 24/33 for 250 workman-like yards.

Both Alabama backs rumbled largely at will. T.J. Yeldon’s 126 yards came on 23 carries (5.5 ypc), while Derrick Henry’s 113 came on just 17 (6.6 ypc). All together, the Tide’s rushing offense averaged 5.9 ypc for 288 yards.

And a win is always better than a loss.

Now the bad – outside of Amari Cooper’s 12 receptions for 130 yards, the wide receivers sputtered. DeAndrew White showed flashes, particularly running after the catch – but left the game with an injured right wing. That, and Christion Jones dropped more balls than the Super Lotto hottie.

A big question mark heading into the game, the Bama secondary did nothing to relieve anxious Crimson minds. Neither did the linebackers, although at least they were playing without starter Trey DePriest. The offensive line had some bright moments, but there’s still room for improvement.

At day’s end, West Virginia did as much to lose this game as the Tide did to win it. And that's not encouraging. The Mountaineer receivers repeatedly dropped wide open passes – several at key, drive-ending moments.

The Tide also benefited from a highly suspicious unsportsmanlike penalty call on the WVU sideline late in the third quarter, after failing to convert on third down. The Capstone would go on to score a field goal, making it 30-20 heading into the fourth, and giving the Tide back the momentum.

It’s too early in the season and there’s a lot of football for Bama to improve. But that performance Saturday in Atlanta was uninspiring to say the least.

E-mail Pete Fiutak

Don’t dismiss the idea that West Virginia still sort of sucks and that Alabama isn’t quite right yet.

At the end of the day, it was a double-digit win. Alabama cranked up 538 yards of total offense and ran without any problem, and Blake Sims looked excellent, and the Alabama defense clamped down when it had to and gave up nothing on the ground, but considering that everything went sort of right for the nation’s No. 2 team, and considering it held on to the ball for almost 38 minutes, this should’ve been a walk in the park. It just wasn’t.

It’s the first week, so there’s no need to get into a panic quite yet, but Alabama doesn’t pass the smell test. Then again, it struggled a bit against Virginia Tech to open up the 2009 season and went on to go 14-0 with a national title. Everything just looked okay against Penn State – not great – in the second game of 2011, but that didn’t matter on the way to a national championship. Even so, it would’ve been nice to have seen the team coming out frothing at the mouth like it did against Michigan to kick off the 2012 campaign, but there wasn’t any real swagger.

Chalk that up to a new starting quarterback finding his way, and account a bit for a defense without its big toe, Trey DePriest.

Fortunately for the Crimson Tide, Florida Atlantic is up next and then Southern Miss – two games to give them back their mojo before dealing with Florida.

The talent is there and the coaching is peerless, but as West Virginia showed, Alabama isn’t quite back to being Alabama. At least not yet.

E-mail Rich Cirminiello
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Earn a Ph.D. in college football … class is in session at Campus Insiders

This can’t be the No. 2 team in the country, can it?

Sure, it’s the first game of the season, and openers should never produce knee-jerk reactions, for the good or the bad. But Alabama, the nation’s supposed next-best-thing to Florida State, was unimpressive today in Atlanta. West Virginia, which went 4-8 a year ago and had one player on the Preseason All-Big 12 Team, was far too close to pulling off this upset in the second half. And other than the backs and the receivers, the Tide just wasn’t scary or particularly imposing this afternoon. Bama QB Blake Sims was okay in his first start, while journeyman Mountaineer QB Clint Trickett had unexpected success versus the rebuilt Tide secondary, which should worry Nick Saban and Kirby Smart for the balance of the schedule.

This is Bama. The talent, on the field and on the sidelines, is a given. Based on today’s performance against a mediocre West Virginia team, though, the Tide is a weak No. 2 squad that’s vulnerable to getting jumped early in the season by someone in its rear view mirror.

By Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFN

Alabama was good enough to beat the mountain men today, but will it be good enough to win the SEC and contend for one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff?

Maybe, but not the way the Tide played today.

There is still plenty of raw talent on Alabama’s sideline, and it was on full display at many times of the game, but the defense was a little too inconsistent, and new starting quarterback Blake Sims was okay, but not the playmaker that will likely be needed in Tuscaloosa to get to Atlanta and beyond.

Truth be known, the coaching staff didn’t ask Sims to do too much, and he was more than adequate, but there will be a point in which the coaching staff will need to pop the cork and see what the senior from Gainesville, Georgia can do.

Today wasn’t the time for it, but the next two weeks should be glorified practices for Alabama to work on making those new parts fit across the board to tighten things up a bit, and to get Blake Sims out in the water a bit and get his confidence where it needs to be when SEC play begins on September 20th.

It’s clear that he’s the guy under center, and now it’s time to open the hood and make adjustments and tune-ups for the big time. The race is on ...

E-mail Rich Cirminiello
Follow me ... @RichCirminiello
Earn a Ph.D. in college football … class is in session at Campus Insiders

UCF lost a game, but found a quarterback.

In a game staged in Ireland, the ending fittingly came on a kick. Unfortunately for the Knights, that walk-off field goal came off the foot of Penn State’s Sam Ficken. It’ll be an especially long flight from Dublin to Orlando for UCF, which was so close to answering its Fiesta Bowl shocker over Baylor with an upset of a Big Ten team. But while the Knights may have lost the battle, they won the war this morning.

UCF spent an entire offseason auditioning candidates to replace Blake Bortles. Pete DiNovo won the right to start the Croke Park Classic, which means absolutely nothing right now. Justin Holman will lead the offense the rest of the season. Some players excel when it matters most, during game time. Holman appears to be that kind of a kid. He came off the bench and did everything he could to carry the Knight offense out of the dregs of an awful first half. He’s poised, the ball whistles out of his hand and he’ll make plays with his feet when necessary.

UCF’s quest of winning back-to-back American titles had one big stumbling block in the offseason—developing a successor to Bortles. That happened today, thanks to an emerging sophomore who began the day on the sidelines.

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