Scouting Report: Alabama

The Vanderbilt Commodores (3-1) travel to No. 2 Alabama (5-0) for a Southeastern Conference bout against a suffocating defense. It will be the 83rd encounter between the two schools. The Crimson Tide have met all preseason expectations defensively, ranking third in the country in total defense (191.6) and giving up just 39.60 yards per game on the ground.

Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart made creating havoc in the backfield a huge emphasis on the year and the Tide has done just that with eight sacks and 36 tackles for a loss going into week six.

After playing the offensive talents of then No. 14 Arkansas and No. 12 Florida, the Tide have still managed to outscore their opponents by an average of 30 points per game. The rushing onslaught of Heisman candidate Trent Richardson has shown no signs of slowing down as he's gained over 100 yards in each of his past four outings with 10 touchdowns.

Sophomore signal caller A.J. McCarron has achieved the 200 yard mark in two games this year, throwing for 919 yards and four touchdowns with a 62.50 completion percentage. This may not be the game to get McCarron more involved in the offense. The Vanderbilt secondary have maintained the lead in interceptions in the FBS after a bye week. A steady diet of center William Vlachos, left tackle Barrett Jones and offensive guard Chance Warmack bulldozing the way for Richardson looks to be in the forecast for the 'Dores.

Wide receiver Marquis Maze has proven to be McCarron's favorite target; doubling the next receiver in receptions with 22 for 262 yards and a touchdown. Maze has also returned kicks and punts and scored against Arkansas on 83-yard punt return. The second leading receiver is the workhorse Richardson who has 11 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Michael Williams looks to be McCarron's preferred red zone target leading the team with two touchdowns on eight catches.

Coach Nick Saban's defense has made a statement against robust competition holding opponents to no more than 14 points on the year and leading the country in scoring defense (8.40 ppg). Alabama has relinquished just two rushing touchdowns at Bryant-Denny Stadium since the commencement of the 2008 season. Alabama's rushing defense has held SEC running backs to a mere 16 yards per game.

A pair of explosive linebackers in Dont'a Hightower and Upshaw have combined for 45 tackles, 12 for a loss and two sacks. On film the Tide's rush defense seems to take yards away more often than giving them up. The front three average 305 pounds, anchored by nose tackle Josh Chapman who is surrounded by Damion Square and Jesse Williams at the ends, all of which are dominant presences on the line. The 319 pounder Williams transferred after two years at Arizona Western Community College and hails from Brisbane, Australia, he has 10 tackles on the year, two of which for a loss.

Alabama's pass defense is led by Jim Thorpe Award candidate senior safety Mark Barron, who tops the secondary with 24 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovered. Senior cornerback DeQuan Menzie whose pick-six put the Tide up 17-7 against Arkansas before the half does damage in the backfield as well, with a half a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. Opposite Menzie is junior Dre Kirkpatrick who causes disruption downfield leading the SEC with eight passes broken up and two forced fumbles.

If Saban had one area to improve it would be first quarter play. Of the 42 total points allowed this year 20 have come in the first quarter. Against then No. 23 Penn State, who started the day culminating a 16 play, 54 yard opening drive that made it look as though it may be a long day for the Tide. Alabama then held them to a three and out on the next drive and took the lead for the rest of the game with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Williams. The Nittany Lions are the lone team to rush for at least 100 yards against Alabama, the majority of which came in the first quarter. Against Florida it was an opening play 65-yard touchdown pass to Andre Debose who blew right by Kirkpatrick, the Tide answered with a field goal which was countered by a Florida field goal. It was all 'Bama for the rest of the night as the Tide scored 35 unanswered points to win 38-10.


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