Alabama football looks like a force again, but Miami looked like it missed the bus to Atlanta | Hurt

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

ATLANTA — Much of the pregame buildup for Saturday’s Alabama football game vs. Miami was that questions would be answered, and some were. Others remain.

First, No. 1 Alabama is definitely good again, different on offense but multifaceted, built less on hitting the home run but perfectly content to bang doubles off the outfield wall all afternoon in a 44-13 win over the Hurricanes with one Shohei Otani blast courtesy of Ohio State transfer Jameson Williams. Defensively, the Crimson Tide was ferocious as anticipated, with plenty of speed, plenty of attitude and a good amount of depth, although the Crimson Tide definitely didn’t want a first-half injury to preseason All-America linebacker Christopher Allen to test that depth  

What remained unanswered was this. First, if the old coaching adage about making the most improvement from Week 1 to Week 2 is true, what exactly will Alabama do to Mercer? Second, what on Earth was Miami, the famous U – a team with excellent athletes and a No. 16 national ranking – doing in the first half, when it not only seemed overmatched but also under-emotional, no more inspired that it might be against Wake Forest or Georgia Tech? 

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I suppose that knowing your limitations is a good thing, and perhaps Miami wasn’t entirely confident in D’Eriq King’s rehabilitated knee. But at some point, don’t you have to throw caution to the wind, even inside a dome? If the decision to end the first half on a short field goal inspired any momentum in the Miami locker room, it had to be a version of the excitement brought on by macaroni-and-cheese night at one of the local Florida retirement villages like Del Boca Vista. 

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What would have been a turning point in a closer contest, Alabama’s goal-line stand and the subsequent 94-yard touchdown pass from Bryce Young to Williams, came too late to turn anything. The Titanic had hit the iceberg by then. 

Injuries, especially on defense, were a concern. Nick Saban wouldn’t ever say it, but no one who isn’t 100% ready is going to be rushed back for Mercer. The trip to Florida in two weeks is a different proposition. The Gators, at home before a roaring crowd, will fight in the way that Miami never really did. Allen and Henry To’o To’o are difference-makers and will be needed.

From what we saw of Young, he’s a difference-maker as well. His protection was good at times, not so much so in other times. The month-long piecemeal offensive line, with various players missing at least some practice time, showed but didn’t stop Young from setting statistical marks as a first-time starter who eclipsed the Crimson Tide’s current NFL trio of Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones, as well as a more distant NFL superstar, Joe Namath, who also threw for four touchdowns in his first Alabama start almost 60 years ago. Young also got plenty of reps as he stayed in the game well into the fourth quarter. 

While no future opponent in 2021 will be eager to see Alabama coming, college football fans outside the state probably breathed a collective sigh of relief that Saban’s long stretch of neutral-site openers will be coming to a merciful end. The Crimson Tide has dominated those games since 2008, almost always setting a tone that carried over into the postseason, last year being an exception. 

This one revealed less than most, since the opponent fell well short of expectations. What it did show was that, once again, Alabama has as much to build with as any roster in college football.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecilhurt@tidesports.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt.