Alabama can use Mercer game as a measuring stick before Iron BowlBy Joe Klingbeil | 11/15/2017 10:49pm
On paper, looking at the daunting conference schedule is tough enough for SEC teams. The 12-game season may consist of a road game in Death Valley at night, or a trip to College Station to hear 100,000 screaming Texas A&M fans sing The Aggie War Hymn.
The heart of an SEC schedule could spell triumph, or disaster, for a football team depending on the year. As for the Alabama Crimson Tide’s case this season, well, its fate has yet to be determined.
The No. 1 ranked Crimson Tide has, so far, again maneuvered its way through a grueling SEC schedule with a zero in the loss column. Now, just because it hasn’t been on the losing end of a game doesn't mean the Crimson Tide isn't unscathed.
Injuries have amassed and sent some of Alabama's best players to the sideline for the season in an unprecedented fashion. The fate of the SEC West will hang in the balance until Nov. 25 when Alabama plays Auburn. Until then, the Crimson Tide are focused on Saturday’s game against Mercer, and it could not have come at a better time.
“I kind of feel like just in this situation, everything kind of worked out perfectly, the timing was perfect,” Rashaan Evans said. “The fact that we have a little time to not only get healthy, but [also] go back to the film room and look at all the things that we could've did better.”
Alabama is beating its SEC opponents by an average of 40 points a game on the season, but over its last two games against LSU and Mississippi State, its won by a total of just 21 points. The defense has allowed at least 150 yards rushing over the last two games, and the offense has sputtered.
The snake-bit Crimson Tide is presumably glad that it will not line up against a top 25 team Saturday, but as any Nick Saban-coached team will tell you: no team should be overlooked.
Earlier in the year, the No. 6 ranked Auburn Tigers played Mercer and committed five turnovers in an ugly 24-10 victory. The Crimson Tide are using this week as a chance to fix mistakes, but also learn from Mercer’s game against the Tigers.
“I think there's a lot that can be taken from that [Auburn and Mercer game],” Saban said. “I think any time you play teams, especially at this stage in the season when you've been playing SEC games for how many weeks in a row now, it becomes a little more difficult for guys to have the right psychological disposition to not be playing a conference game regardless of who that might be. But I think it's important for our guys to focus on what we need to do as a team to improve and get better.”
There is no doubt that the Crimson Tide has looked, at the very least, somewhat vulnerable over the last two weeks.
Obviously, injuries are a big part of that. Being without playmakers like linebackers Shaun Dion Hamilton and Mack Wilson would hurt any football team in America. However, Alabama has not made excuses in the past, and will not start the trend now. It knows that it needs to clean up ahead of the Iron Bowl.
“We have to go back and look, work on our fundamentals,” Levi Wallace said. “But we also have to work on Mercer. They, are a great team. They played Auburn pretty close up until the fourth quarter. So we have to focus on them while focusing on ourselves. Just executing like we know how to.”