Coming into the 2012 season, the Alabama Crimson Tide were expected to compete for their third BCS national championship in four seasons. One of the few question marks for the Crimson Tide was how soon would their young defense grow up.
Four games into the season, the Alabama defense is looking to reach a mark they have not reached since 1966. That was the last time the Crimson Tide defense notched three consecutive shutouts. Moreover, Alabama hasn’t had three shutouts in a season since they won the 1992 national championship.
As a result, historically speaking, a shutout could symbolize that No. 16 shirts will soon be printed.
Alabama enters the game as 50½ -point favorites over the Florida Atlantic Owls a week after the Owls were defeated by the No. 5 ranked Georgia Bulldogs 56-20. Florida Atlantic was competitive in that game early on. The Owls torched the Bulldogs in the first half, racking up 263 yards and 14 points. However, after the Bulldogs settled down, they held the Owls to an anemic 55 yards and three first downs in the second half with zero offensive touchdowns.
The Bulldogs were without two All-Americans in Jarvis Jones and Bacarri Rambo. Georgia was also without preseason All-SEC linebacker Alec Ogletree, and DE/LB Cornelius Washington played sparingly.
However, at the same time, the Owls entered the game with a solid offensive game plan. They attacked the UGA defense with a short, controlled passing game. Quarterback Graham Wilbert never used more than a three step drop before making his throws. Wilbert is a strong passer that can stand tall in the pocket and sling it around.
Because of the quick drops and release, the Bulldogs were unable to get any pressure on Wilbert and he was only sacked once. Moreover, the Owls convert eight of their first 11 third downs.
Wilbert converted 18-of-31 passes for 183 yards and one touchdown. Their running game was held in check most of the game. Outside of a 43-yard run by Damian Fortner, the Owls only averaged 2.5 yards per carry.
In other words, the Owls will attempt to use short passes on their early downs to negate Alabama’s team speed. If successful, this will also keep their third downs manageable.
While Florida Atlantic was serviceable on offense last week, they were horrific on defense. The Bulldogs broke the 700-yards of offense mark with over 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter. UGA head coach Mark Richt was kind enough to shut the offense down at that point.
Alabama might surpass the 800-yards mark this week. Georgia was able to average 7.8 yards per carry against the Owls with a banged up offensive line. Alabama, on the other hand, should be able to open holes big enough that Nick Saban could run through them.
The Crimson Tides offensive line outweighs Florida Atlantic’s defensive front by an average of 314 to 248. It is not outside of the realm of possibilities that Alabama could have three 100-yard rushers.
Also look for AJ McCarron to have another big day. The Owls allowed Aaron Murray to pass for a career-best 342 yards (14-of-19 passing) and account for four total touchdowns in the rout.
Prediction: While I do not expect Alabama to pitch a shutout, it will be close. The Owls did find early offensive success against the Bulldogs last week but Saban and company have the game film from last week to see how Florida Atlantic attacks 3-4 defenses. Moreover, they see the adjustments Todd Grantham made to hold the Owls to 55 yards in the second half.
I look for Eddie Lacy to get back on track this game and McCarron to continue his hot start.
Score Prediction: Alabama 55 FAU 6
Stat Line Prediction: 375 yards rushing for Tide.