Alabama coach Nick Saban agreed with most who saw the top-ranked Crimson Tide’s 31-6 victory over Colorado State on Saturday, issuing thumbs down to another unimpressive-for-Alabama performance.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is trying to keep thumbs and heads up after the Tigers’ first loss of the season, a 35-21 comedown at LSU after Auburn got off to a 3-0 start.
JSU coach Bill Clark just might be putting his thumb on the Gamecocks’ identity after their 32-26 victory over Georgia State in overtime, with the common thread in their 4-0 start being outcomes.
Alabama: Failure to communicate
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron went out of his way not to say much after the Colorado State game, choosing to repeat his line that the Tide’s offensive glitches were a matter of “communication.”
That’s OK. He communicates volumes through irritated facial expressions.
He was towing the company line and seemed to grow more irritated as a pack of reporters pressed for specifics, but Alabama’s issues must go beyond communication. That’s a simple fix.
Three games and four weeks into the season, it’s not fixed. It only looked that way against a bad Texas A&M defense Sept. 14.
Alabama went 2-for-10 on third-down conversions and rushed for a season-low 66 yards against the likes of Colorado State. That wide receiver Amari Cooper and right guard Anthony Steen didn’t play and running back T.J. Yeldon sat out a quarter on suspension played a role, but Alabama’s offense had similar struggles with those guys playing in the season-opener against Virginia Tech.
Something is off in the land of the dominance standard, and Alabama is about to play a team in Ole Miss that can make it hurt.
Auburn: On the rebound
Auburn’s open date comes well timed, after the Tigers lost big in their first test against an elite opponent.
Even with the 3-0 start Auburn carried into LSU, Auburn is not far removed from seeing a season go bad in a hurry. They lost confidence and lost their way en route to a 3-9 crash in 2012.
First-year Auburn coach Gus Malzahn’s must keep this season from going negative, and he can draw positives from the LSU experience. While LSU got off to a 21-0 start that could have been worse, Auburn rallied in the second half.
Chalk it up to garbage time, but Auburn kept playing and made the score look closer than the game. The Tigers actually had a chance to make it a one-score game and try an onside kick.
No one expected this Auburn team to be elite, and the Tigers are far from it. The question becomes making the most of what they have, and maintaining their fragile confidence is the key.
Auburn showed fight in how it finished at LSU, and Malzahn has an open date to massage it.
JSU: ‘Win’ for identity
JSU has spent the first four games of this season trying to hammer out an identity, and the victory over Georgia State on Saturday didn’t nail down an answer.
The Gamecocks got it done with passing this time. They got it done with rushing against Jacksonville. They got it done with field goals, a safety and a halfback pass against North Alabama.
Twice, they’ve gotten it done in overtime --- once against a Division II opponent and once against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent. They needed a game-saving interception against Alabama State.
The only easy victory came against non-scholarship Jacksonville, but victories are victories. No matter how games were won, JSU is 4-for-4.
Considering the Gamecocks have done it different ways each week --- twice on the road and twice at home, with multiple quarterbacks and three dramatic finishes --- maybe the identity of Bill Clark’s first JSU team is a bow to late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis … just win baby.
Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jmedley_star.