The #1 Alabama Crimson Tide (1-0) kicked off the 2021 CFB season like they were in midseason form this past Saturday. The Tide defeated the #14 Miami Hurricanes in Atlanta with a 44-13 score. They were the only team that looked highly efficient on both sides of the ball. Now Alabama will have to host the Mercer Bears (1-0). This Saturday will be the fourth-ever meeting between the Tide and the Bears. The last time both teams met on the field was in the 2017 season when Alabama won 56-0.
Even though the Tide looks just as good as last season, head coach Nick Saban is preparing for his team to compete for all four quarters. The famous ‘rat poison’ conversation has been brought up by Saban as most of the major media expects the Tide to overlook the Bears. Saban has been reportedly preparing Alabama as if they are playing another top 25 teams. This game this season will be a great opportunity for Alabama to build their team on what they aren’t able to build against the Hurricanes last season.
#1 Alabama Prepares For Home Game Against the Mercer Bears
Alabama Can Build the Running Game
Sophomore quarterback Bryce Young had the greatest first-ever start for an Alabama program history. Bryce threw for 344 yards, four touchdowns, and 94.2 QBR on 27 completions (out of 38 passing attempts). This upcoming Saturday, the Tide might utilize a more aggressive run-orientated offense. Last week, the Tide rushed for 147 yards and one touchdown on 38 carries for an average of 3.9 yards per rush. Alabama had three rushers that had eight carries, including 12 from senior running back Brian Robinson Jr. He rushed for 60 yards while redshirt sophomore Trey Sanders rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown on eight rushes. Sophomore Jase McClellan rushed for 36 yards on nine carries. Each running back for Alabama’s offense has unique traits that make them a valuable playmaker in the backfield.
Against the Hurricane, Robinson looked more explosive and dynamic as a runner than the past couple of seasons. Alabama could double the rushing reps of these backs against Mercer as they look to get the pressure off Young’s shoulders. The Tide could build the confidence of their young offensive and their young rushers. They will need the confidence as Alabama will face more efficient and aggressive defenses throughout the season.
Alabama’s Defense Looks Healthy
Last week, the Tide only allowed 266 total yards from the offense of the Hurricanes. Alabama’s stout defensive line and linebackers only allowed 88 rushing yards from Miami. This was their best defensive performance since 2019 against a top-15 team since the 2020 Citrus Bowl against the #14 Michigan Wolverines. While Alabama’s defense looked dominant, they suffered some unfortunate injuries. Senior outside linebacker Christopher Allen suffered a significant foot injury on the forced fumble on Hurricanes quarterback D’Eriq King. Their main inside linebacker in Henry To’o To’o suffered an elbow injury in the third quarter. To’o To’o was listed to be okay by coach Saban, but Allen is likely out for the season. Senior linebacker Jaylen Moody should be a player that Alabama can rely on as the middle linebacker while To’o To’o rests his injury. Sophomore Drew Sanders expects to start at the Sam linebacker with Allen out.
Play Fast and Stay Healthy
Mercer is a team that plays fast, which means they will not give the pass rush of Alabama time to progress. They will likely have quick passing plays established, such as slants, in-routes, or hitch routes. Alabama will need Christian Harris and Moody to be quick and alert. Sophomore Malachi Moore was a surprise start at safety with the ankle injury to DeMarrco Hellams. Brian Branch was quick and efficient at the star instead of Moore. Moore and Branch will need to be reactive to the potential quick passing plays of the Bears. They will do whatever it takes to keep the ball progressing in-between the tackles. As long as Alabama’s defense remains disciplined, they will do well against Mercer. The Tide cannot allow any more significant injuries to happen before the start of their SEC schedule the following week.