Mark Edwards: Alabama has fewer woes than you might think
by Mark Edwards
TUSCALOOSA -- On a day when it's cool to point out all the things Alabama did wrong in its 25-0 beating of Ole Miss, let's talk about what the Crimson Tide did right.

Yes, the offensive line needs to fix some problems -- some of which can be fixed by time together on the field -- but in the end, Alabama rushed for 254 yards, which is nearly double what it averaged in the first three games.

The Crimson Tide defense gave up only 46 yards, and through four games, that awful defensive performance against Texas A&M looks more like an abberation caused by facing an ultra-talented quarterback early in the season on the road.

The special teams remained outstanding, especially punter Cody Mandell and place-kicker Cody Foster.

The quarterback, AJ McCarron, game-managed the stuffing out of yet another defense. Alabama won the turnover battle 2-1. On third down, the Crimson Tide converted 8 of its first 14 chances, fixing a problem from the previous week.

And all that was against the No. 21 team in the country, which rolled into Bryant-Denny Stadium unbeaten and aiming for a historic upset.

Alabama gutted out another win. Is it worth the time to hammer this team over the head because it hasn't reached expectations established by the Tide's three national title teams in the past four seasons? Besides, while those teams look awfully good through four games, they didn't look like world-beaters until the end of the year.

Yes, it's a little daunting to think of this Alabama team, which has a struggling offensive line, facing Georgia or LSU, who battled Saturday to a 44-41 final, which Georgia won.

Initial thought: Field goals won't beat those teams. But maybe they will. And, besides, if they don't and Alabama really does need to outscore LSU in the regular season and Georgia in a possible SEC Championship Game rematch, the Tide already did that against a team with a better quarterback at Texas A&M.

This Alabama team appears to have less in common with Saban's three previous national title teams and more with the 1992 squad, which gave Gene Stallings an unbeaten 13-0 championship season.

That 1992 team gutted out games, as this Crimson Tide does. It ran the ball, stopped the run, was on the plus side of turnovers, and was good in special teams. Wow, that sounds just like Alabama on Saturday.

That team struggled on offense in its fourth game, too, beating Louisiana Tech 13-0 because of special teams and defense.

The biggest difference between that team and the current Crimson Tide is at quarterback. That team had Jay Barker, a future All-American who was still learning on the job. The 2013 Alabama squad has a proven guy in AJ McCarron, who has kept opposing defenses from selling out all the way to stop the run.

If opposing defenses want to start doing that (as Texas A&M did at times two weeks ago), McCarron is experienced, talented, and able to take advantage. Imagine what the Alabama run game can do as it continues to improve against defenses that can't stack the line because of fear of what McCarron might do to them.

That 1992 team rarely had to outgun anybody, as 2013 Alabama has and might have to do again, but McCarron has proven he can handle that. And Alabama can handle that.

It's a good team. And instead of worrying about how Alabama will manage when it plays better teams, those better teams should worry about how they'll handle a battle-tested, gutty Crimson Tide squad, that has every bit of confidence an unbeaten No. 1-ranked team should have.

Contact Anniston Star Sports Editor Mark Edwards at Follow on Twitter at @MarkSportsStar.
© 2013