College Football Week 4 Preview: What's Wrong with Alabama?

The Crimson Tide lost its first showcase game, and then struggled to beat South Florida amidst quarterback changes. What's going on with Nick Saban's Alabama team?

Sep 9, 2023; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban runs onto the
Sep 9, 2023; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban runs onto the / John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

This isn't what we are used to with Alabama.

The Crimson Tide have lost by double digits at home, the first time since 2004, and are cycling through quarterbacks as it searches for the right guy under center. For the first time since Nick Saban's first years in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide look to be a non factor in the National Championship picture.

So, what gives with Alabama? While it's still early, it seems that in the era of the transfer portal, the Crimson Tide appear to have whiffed at the most important position, quarterback, and the clock is ticking.

Ahead of the team's SEC opener at home against Ole Miss, let's diagnose what's going on under center with the Crimson Tide.

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Alabama Quarterback Situation: Should the Crimson Tide Start Jalen Milroe?

To answer the above question: Yes.

Milroe was Bryce Young's backup last season and saw some time under center, showcasing his best talents as a rusher. However, the 6'2" QB showcased a big arm in the team's loss to Texas.

However, Milroe has plenty of flaws. He's not accurate, he completed only 51% of his passes against Texas and took five sacks in the loss with two interceptions.

For what it's worth, I don't believe Milroe was put in much of a place to succeed in the Texas game, new offensive coordinator from Notre Dame Tommy Rees didn't give Milroe much of a chance to use his legs in designed play calls to open up the Crimson Tide passing game.

There's flashes of a big arm from Milroe that can keep a defense honest, but he'd be best suited as a rusher.

It's clear that the team isn't sold on Milroe under center as the team went to Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner against South Florida in Week 3. Buchner followed Rees to Alabama and struggled in his audition, completing only five of 14 passes before he was pulled for Ty Simpson.

Instead of using the South Florida game as another opportunity to fine tune the team's scheme to fit Milroe's legs, the team is still auditioning options at QB while the team gets ready for SEC play.

To me, there aren't any great options at QB this season for Saban's group. The team wasn't able to bring in the likes of Sam Hartman, and is stuck with whats left. However, the team's best option is to follow the path of the Texas game, but for four quarters. Lean on a sturdy defense that can stymie the opposing offense and wear down the opposition with a rush-first attack.

Alabama limited Texas to 13 points through three quarters before the game went sideways with an untimely Milroe interception. Granted, it's Week 2. With more reps, and in the right system, the former backup can emerge as a weapon behind an emerging Crimson Tide offensive line.

Losing to Texas isn't a death blow to the Crimson Tide's College Football Playoff hopes, but it puts pressure on the team to figure out its offensive structure ahead of SEC play.

Another loss will be the end for the Crimson Tide's chances of making the final four, and while the team can be improving as SEC play goes on, its personnel decisions over the past two weeks aren't inspiring confidence.

Ole Miss vs. Alabama Prediction and Pick

Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin, a former staffer for Saban at Alabama, always has made a point to get his Rebels team up for Alabama. While he hasn't knocked off his former boss yet, this could be the year for Ole Miss.

The Rebels have dealt with injuries so far this season around second year quarterback Jaxson Dart. Despite transfer Zhakari Franklin missing the entire season and fellow transfer Tre Harris missing last week's game against Georgia Tech, Dart has led a unit that is top 10 in both success rate through the air and EPA/Pass. Granted, he played an FCS team in Mercer as well as a poor defense in Georgia Tech, but Tulane is an above average defensive unit.

Ole Miss plays fast, and will hope that star running back, who was limited against Georgia Tech with a leg injury, and can put pressure on the Crimson Tide if the team falls behind. Given the state of the quarterback room, this can be a big issue for Alabama, who was outgained on a yards per play basis in the team's 30-24 win last year at Ole Miss.

The Rebels have an identity on offense, and the defense has been up to snuff so far this season as well, 27th in EPA/Play through three games. Meanwhile, we don't know who is starting at quarterback for the Crimson Tide on Saturday. While I believe Milroe gives the team the highest ceiling, it appears tha that the OC would prefer a more traditional pocket passer like Buchner or even Simpson.

Given the questions around Alabama's quarterback room, I believe that the team will look to lean on its defense to slow down this up-tempo Rebels offensive attack, possibly leading to an under play.

However, I believe that blood is in the water for the Crimson Tide and that Kiffin can scheme up a game plan to open up looks for his skilled wide receiver corps (that hopefully will be at full strength Satuday). I'm taking Ole Miss with the points in what should be a tight game throughout.

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.

Track Reed's bets here!