Off the Marq: Talking Rashaan Evans and what’s ahead in November for Alabama football

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Watching Alabama football is weird.

The Crimson Tide’s game vs. Tennessee was only 7-0 for a quarter and a half, but there was never a time where it felt like Alabama was in danger of losing to Tennessee on Saturday.

Alabama was only up 21-0 at halftime, and that somehow felt like a bad thing. The Crimson Tide covered the enormous 37-point spread with a 45-7 win over the Volunteers, marking their 11th straight victory in the series.

This game was so lopsided that Alabama put in its backup quarterback early in the third quarter, and Tennessee still didn’t have a chance.

BDS was rocking Saturday

For the majority of the game, Alabama fans had Bryant-Denny Stadium rocking. The energy was a little low early in the first quarter as the offense punted on back-to-back drives, but the rest of the afternoon was loud.

The noise reached a deafening level during Alabama’s goal-line stand in the third quarter.

The Vols started at the Tide 20-yard line and made it all the way to the 1. That’s when things fell apart. Alabama’s crowd roared with Tennessee’s offense at the 1-yard line, leading to a false start penalty by the Vols.

Two plays later, the drive was over. On fourth-and-goal from the 5, pressure quickly got to Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, forcing him to loft a pass that was intercepted by Alabama linebacker Mack Wilson.

Saban and the players appreciated the atmosphere.

“It was great. I think the fans really had a lot to do with it. Obviously, they contributed to the [false start] penalty when they had the ball inside the 1. They gave us a chance and made it third-and-5 at the 5. When you have to pass the ball down there, it gets a little restricted. On the fourth-down play, we did a great job of matching the patterns and got some pressure on the quarterback. It was exciting to see our players wanting to not let them score. The fans were into it and it was great. I think that probably speaks a lot toward what this game means and what this rivalry is because there was a lot of pride in the stands and on the field.” — Alabama coach Nick Saban

Rashaan Evans, emotional leader

Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans hasn’t been 100 percent all season, but he has managed to make plays for the defense at crucial times.

A lot is said about Minkah Fitzpatrick’s versatility, and rightfully so. Evans should be praised for his own ability to play multiple roles for the Crimson Tide defense. He lines up inside and outside, he rushes the passer, he stops the run and he occasionally covers in space.

But it may be what he brings from an intangible standpoint that makes him so valuable.

Evans is Alabama’s emotional leader. He’s not afraid to show personality on and off the field. Despite dealing with a shoulder stinger on Saturday, Evans continued to play and play well against the Volunteers.

He finished the day with 6 total tackles, including 1 sack and 2 tackles for loss. He nearly decapitated Guarantano before the half.

“He played a good game today. He’s getting healthier all the time, although he did get a little shoulder stinger, but he was able to come back from that. We were able to utilize him in different ways on third downs, put him in a position where he has a chance to make plays now that he’s gotten more healthy. … It’s really important that we have him out there healthy and making the kind of contribution he’s making, especially in pass rush. But he played a really good game today.” — Saban

Numbers to think about

I try to avoid boring you with stats because this piece is supposed to be lighthearted and fun, but some numbers have jumped out through eight games.

If anyone tries to tell you Alabama doesn’t have a good offense, walk away. The passing numbers aren’t high, but they don’t have to be when teams can’t stop Alabama from running. Anyway, here’s a few things that stood out from the first eight games:

  • Alabama has a top-10 scoring offense (No. 6) and scoring defense (No. 2) nationally. If this keeps up, it would be the first time it has happened during Saban’s tenure. Think about that: Alabama isn’t allowing teams to score, but they’re also scoring more points than all but five teams in the country. Who would have thought a Saban offense would be this explosive?
  • Alabama has a plus-200 point differential through its first five SEC games, which is the largest margin in league history. That’s more than the plus-190 from the 1996 Florida team and plus-165 from the 2012 Alabama team. Both of those teams won the SEC and national championships in their respective seasons.
  • Alabama leads the SEC in scoring offense, rushing offense, total offense, scoring defense, rushing defense and total defense. So, pretty much everything.
  • Alabama leads the nation in rushing defense and total defense.
  • Alabama’s offense isn’t too shabby either. The Crimson Tide are top-10 in the country in scoring (No. 6 with 43 points per game) and rushing (No. 8 with 298.8 yards per game). Alabama is just outside the top-10 at No. 12 in total offense (499.8 yards per game). Alabama is ninth in the country with an average of 7.01 yards per play.

What’s ahead in November

It’s all come down to November. Alabama is four games away from another undefeated regular season, and based on the schedule, you’d be hard pressed to argue against the Crimson Tide finishing unblemished.

You can’t objectively look at Alabama’s schedule and find a loss.

LSU is playing better, but does anyone think it will have a rushing output anywhere near what it had vs. Ole Miss against Alabama? The Tigers rushed for 393 yards against the Rebels. Also, is Danny Etling the type of quarterback who can beat Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium?

Playing at Mississippi State won’t be easy, but the Bulldogs simply don’t have the overall talent to compete with Alabama.

Hi, Mercer.

That leaves the Iron Bowl. It’s tough to know what to make of Auburn. Are those Tigers a team that blew a 20-point lead at LSU? Or are they the team that dropped 52 on Arkansas on Saturday?

The good thing for Alabama is Auburn will have to play Georgia before the Iron Bowl. That’ll give Saban and defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt a pretty clear plan on how to attack the Tigers.

Barring something unforeseen, look for Alabama to make the SEC Championship Game with a 12-0 mark.

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