No. 1 Alabama’s 44-13 win against No. 16 Miami to open the 2021 season was beyond the sort of predictable dismantling of a Power Five non-conference opponent we’ve come to expect from the Crimson Tide.
With new starters at several key spots and a new offensive coordinator, Alabama put on a show against the not-ready-for-prime-time Hurricanes to more than justify the preseason hype surrounding the latest Nick Saban-coached team set to make a run at the College Football Playoff and the national championship.
Ahead 27-3 at halftime, the Tide stopped Miami one yard shy of the goal line on the opening drive of the third quarter and then scored on a 94-yard touchdown pass 50 seconds later, in as demoralizing a minute of play imaginable between two ranked teams.
New year, same story: Despite the changing cast of characters, Alabama looked so good against Miami to quickly draw comparisons to the 2020 team that made a case for being the most dominant team in a program history littered with dominance.
Mac Jones is out, Bryce Young is in. The second-year player completed 27 of 38 attempts for 344 yards and four scores, setting a record for touchdown passes by an Alabama quarterback in his first career start. Young looked the part of a Heisman Trophy contender who more than earned the subtle praise Saban heaped on the former five-star recruit during the spring and summer.
Steve Sarkisian is out, replaced by Bill O’Brien. Saban’s latest reclamation project inherited the bones of one of the most productive offenses in college football history. At first glance, any changes installed by the former Houston Texans head coach only complement the schematic foundation left in place by his predecessor.
Alabama gained 508 yards of offense in O’Brien’s debut, averaging 6.6 yards per play and 4.1 yards per carry, with 28 first downs, 10 third-down conversions and four touchdown drives of 74 or more yards.
Defensively, the Tide held Miami to 248 yards of offense, just 70 coming on the ground, and forced three turnovers.
In all, the defining characteristic of Alabama’s romp was the team’s execution. Despite the roster turnover, the Crimson Tide looked in midseason form.
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The rout comes with obvious questions about what it means to beat Miami, or where the Hurricanes would slot in an SEC pecking order topped by at least six or seven teams with genuine aspirations of reaching a major bowl.
From the Hurricanes’ perspective, this sort of loss is a cruel reminder of the gap separating the second or third tier of College Football Playoff contenders from the elite teams that rule that conversation, a list that once again begins with the Crimson Tide.
What is not up for debate is how the Tide would respond to the offseason changes, which in terms of lost production exceeded the norm even for a program accustomed to losing multiple stars at the end of any given season.
That message has been sent: Alabama didn’t miss a beat to kick off another run at perfection. usatoday.com