Three things to watch from the bye week

Alabama football will come out of its bye week ranked No. 6 in the nation with a 7-1 record. The Tide has looked vulnerable in several games this season. While this team may have the highest ceiling in college football, the general consensus is that some things need to change if Alabama is to return to the playoffs and compete for a national championship.

Alabama Football: Seth McLaughlin returns to starting lineup

Junior center Seth McLaughlin has been a game-changer in his opportunities on offense. Although somewhat undersized, McLaughlin’s mentality and aggressive style of play make him a very effective run blocker. He has shown the ability to compete with, and even push, much bigger defensive lines and has opened holes on some huge runs for Alabama football this year.

In his first start of the season against Arkansas, Seth McLaughlin helped pave the way for 317 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns, perhaps season highs for the Alabama offense. He also started another game against Texas A&M in which Alabama ran for 286 yards, their second-highest total of the season. He was also solid in pass protection.

McLaughlin appeared to suffer the injury late in the Tennessee game. His injury was not listed on any injury reports, but he did not play against Mississippi State. Darrian Dalcourt returned to the starting lineup in that game and Alabama ran for a season-low 29 yards on 1.1 YPC. Not being able to run the ball in this game didn’t fall entirely on Dalcourt, but the run makes a big difference depending on who is in the middle.

Alabama Football: Bryce Young and the receivers take the next step

Bryce Young and Alabama’s passing game have shown flashes of explosive potential this season, but haven’t been able to consistently play at a high level. Alabama’s receiving corps is made up almost entirely of freshmen, transfers and former backups, so a group that took a few weeks to mesh with Young was to be expected. Still, it will be November when Alabama starts next, and the passing game still lacks luster.

Juniors Traeshon Holden and Jermaine Burton, sophomore Ja’Corey Brooks and freshmen Kobe Prentice and Isaiah Bond have all made significant contributions at various points in the season. Sophomore receiver Jojo Earle and junior transfer Tyler Harrell are finally integrated into the offense after extensive struggles with injuries.

While it’s hard to believe a true WR1 will emerge from the pack this season, this group as a collective may be one of the best in the country. Combined with Bryce Young, the potential for Alabama’s offense is incredibly high. Maybe it will look a little smoother when the bye week comes out.

Alabama Football: The defense is settling in

Alabama’s defense was crushed heading into the bye week. The week off should give the Tide a chance to get a healthy defense and work out some mistakes. Defensive lineman DJ Dale and Jaheim Oatis, as well as inside linebackers Deontae Lawson and Kendrick Blackshire, did not suit up against Mississippi State. Inside linebacker Jaylen Moody, injured himself, barely played. Alabama will need to embrace a healthy Baton Rouge defense to limit the Tigers’ rushing attack.

Additionally, Alabama introduced Eli Ricks as its new starting cornerback against Mississippi State. Ricks was exceptional in that game, and the bye week gave him two more weeks of practice with the first-team defense. He should be even more comfortable and confident this week. This shift in the secondary also gives Alabama football the opportunity to play with some creative dime and nickel packages to get better coverage of players on the field.

Although Alabama’s defense pretty much shut down Mississippi State, the group should still be embarrassed and hungry after its performance at Tennessee. This defense has a lot to prove and should be healthier and more ready by the time they say goodbye.

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