Nick Saban seems to know what ails Alabama football. It boils down to one word | Toppmeyer

Blake Toppmeyer

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” blasted from a bar on University Boulevard on Saturday night while Alabama fans celebrated the third-ranked Crimson Tide’s 20-14 victory over LSU.

The song lyrics don’t mesh with this Alabama team. The Crimson Tide (8-1, 5-1 SEC), while good, is not untouchable.

“I truly thought we were the better team tonight," said Ed Orgeron, and while that assessment might have been slightly hyperbolic, what the LSU coach said next wasn't. 

"We just came up a couple plays short.”

Just a couple of plays separated Alabama and 28.5-point underdog LSU (4-5, 2-4).

Untouchable teams have at least one facet of their game that they can hang their hat on each week. Alabama became untouchable last season because of its unstoppable offense led by Mac Jones, DeVonta Smith, Najee Harris and a robust offensive line. Alabama scored at least 31 points and eclipsed 400 yards in every game.

No. 1 Georgia (9-0, 7-0) looks untouchable this season because of its defense loaded with stars who will populate the first-team All-SEC honor roll. The Bulldogs are allowing 6.6 points per game. Georgia has college football's best defense since Alabama’s 2011 unit led the Crimson Tide to a national championship by allowing just nine offensive touchdowns all season.

Alabama coach Nick Saban sounded unalarmed after Saturday's victory that came down to the final play. He called the outcome “a great win for our team.” But between Saban's positive remarks, he subtly put his finger on the biggest issue facing Alabama by referring to his team’s inconsistency five times during his postgame news conference.

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“In different parts of the team, it has been very good at times, and in other parts of the team, not so good at times,” said Saban, adding that the troublesome areas of the team aren’t the same each game.

On Saturday, Alabama’s offensive line failed to control the line of scrimmage. The Crimson Tide had 6 rushing yards, in part because Bryce Young was sacked four times. Deficiencies up front also were apparent in Alabama’s narrow victory over Florida in September, and Young was regularly under duress throughout a loss to Texas A&M last month. In other games, Alabama’s offensive line asserted its will.

The theme of inconsistency applies to the defense, too. As Young put it, Alabama’s defense “played lights out” against LSU and “bailed us out.” LSU had three drives reach Alabama territory in the fourth quarter that netted zero points.

 “There was no way we were going to let them score at the end,” Saban said. “I think our defensive players really stepped up.”

But in Alabama’s previous game, repeated secondary breakdowns allowed Tennessee to trail by just a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, and secondary failures also cost Alabama the game against Texas A&M. So, which is the real Alabama defense?

Also, special teams have been a bugaboo in back-to-back games.

“We need to fix those inconsistencies if we’re going to be the kind of team that we want to be,” Saban said, speaking about his team as a whole.

Time is running short, and Alabama has no margin for error.

Alabama will win the SEC West if it beats Arkansas and Auburn, but lose either game and Texas A&M shifts into the driver’s seat for the spot in Atlanta.

Even if Alabama reaches the SEC Championship Game, it might need to beat Georgia to claim a spot in the College Football Playoff.

The way Alabama’s defense played Saturday, it looked up to the challenge of a clash with Georgia. But the Crimson Tide offense that supplied 308 yards against LSU might be fortunate to muster 200 against Georgia.

By the time Alabama plays its next SEC game against Arkansas on Nov. 20, the roles might flip and the offense could be superior to the defense.

That’s the Crimson Tide’s lingering issue. From week to week, it’s hard to know what to expect from Alabama’s offense, defense or special teams.

Meanwhile, Georgia knows it can expect dominance from its defense each week, and that’s why the Bulldogs look like college football’s untouchable team.

Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.