2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 3 - North Texas at Alabama
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Sept. 17 at Alabama 41 .. North Texas 0
CFN Analysis: COMING
(AP) TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy each had two long touchdown runs and career rushing highs, and No. 2 Alabama's defense smothered North Texas in a 41-0 victory Saturday night.
Richardson scored three times -- including a 58-yarder and a career-long 71-yarder -- and had most of his 167 yards on the two long ones to help the Crimson Tide (3-0) race into its showdown with No. 14 Arkansas. He had 24 yards at halftime against the Mean Green (0-3) and the nation's 117th-rated defense.
Lacy scored on runs of 43 and 67 yards and gained 161 yards.
They are the first Tide duo to top 150 yards in the same game.
Alabama recorded its first shutout since a 45-0 victory over Chattanooga on Nov. 21, 2009, thanks to a blocked field goal by Robert Lester and a goal line stand in the final minutes.
The Tide racked up 347 yards rushing and outgained North Texas 586-91.
Despite the big runs, Alabama's physical, aggressive defense set the tone against a team that is now 1-42 against ranked opponents and is off to its fourth 0-3 start in five years. North Texas had 25 yards and one first down in the opening half and only crossed midfield twice. Leading rusher Lance Dunbar gained 16 yards on 17 carries.
Tide quarterback AJ McCarron, meanwhile, completed 15 of 21 passes for 190 yards before giving way to backup Philip Sims in the fourth quarter -- and part of the second.
The running backs didn't steal the show until the second half.
Richardson ran his season total to eight touchdowns while he and Lacy together averaged 16.4 yards on 20 carries.
The game went from dominating to downright ugly in a 15-minute span, starting with Richardson's 58-yarder down the left sideline in the third quarter. Lacy then burst untouched through the line on the only play of a drive early in the fourth to reach the final margin.
Despite the lopsided score and wire-to-wire domination, there was plenty for Tide coach Nick Saban to find fault with ahead of the Tide's biggest test so far against fellow Southeastern Conference Western contender Arkansas.
Alabama's offense dominated between the 20s but stalled several times in the red zone. The Tide had to settle for two field goals by Jeremy Shelley plus two missed attempts.
North Texas also racked up four sacks and recovered fumbles by both Tide quarterbacks.
All that only made a cosmetic difference on the scoreboard and gave Saban some teaching points after a third straight easy win.
The Tide scored on its first four possessions with McCarron picking apart a defense that allowed 563 passing yards to Houston last week. The defense, on the other hand, dominated throughout.
Alabama outgained the Mean Green 282-25 in the first half. Lacy scored on his 43-yarder run, and Richardson scored on a comparably mundane 4-yarder.
Alabama has scored at least 17 first-half points in seven straight games.
Alabama wide receiver Darius Hanks made his season debut after sitting out the first two games under the NCAA's redshirt rule. He had two catches for 20 yards.
North Texas (0-2) at Alabama (2-0) Sept. 17, 7:30, ESPN3
Here’s The Deal … Sometimes you have to simply enjoy greatness for greatness sake.
You want to be able to see the best do their thing in their prime and you want to see the stars doing what they do best. And sometimes, you simply want to watch the train wreck.
North Texas head coach Dan McCarney is a good one, and eventually he’ll turn the program into a player in the Sun Belt race, but he doesn’t have any talent to work with and he has a long, long way to go to get the players he needs to do what he wants. But he could go on a recruiting binge and get the best players available to the Sun Belt, and he still probably wouldn’t be able to get much going on the ground against the 2011 Alabama defense.
The Mean Green had problems in their first two games losing to FIU and Houston by a combined score of 89 to 39, and the games weren’t even that close. Meanwhile, Alabama dominated defensively against Kent State and Penn State, with the opposing touchdowns in both games coming when the outcome had long been settled.
Oh sure, Alabama is going to be thinking about the next two games against Arkansas and Florida, and of course this will be a nice chance to get the backups some playing time, but for a half, if the Tide defense is dialed in, it should put on a show of might. And while it’s always fun to see the best in sports do what they do at a high level, it’s also fun to see the major underdog throw a couple of haymakers to try to do something miraculous.
Why North Texas Might Win: It’s not like the Alabama offense has done anything so far. The quarterback play has been mediocre, the running game has had to work way too hard to grind out yards, and the attack hasn’t exploded. Granted, Penn State has a terrific defense that might be the best in the Big Ten, and Kent State generates a decent pass rush, but Alabama has so much talent and so much skill that it should’ve been a bit more effective. The Tide is currently 84th in the nation in passing efficiency, and there hasn’t been much of a rhythm yet to the attack. Defensively, Alabama isn’t designed to come up with sacks in bunches, and the UNT’s pass protection has been a relative plus so far.
Why Alabama Might Win: Set the bar at about 50 yards rushing for UNT. Even with an elite running back in Lance Dunbar to work with, the Mean Green came up with just 118 yards on the ground against a Houston team that got ripped up by UCLA, and there were only 97 yards against FIU. Alabama stuffed Penn State for just 107 rushing yards, and Kent State ended up with -9 yards net. Offensively, yes, Alabama hasn’t exactly been sharp so far, but North Texas has been a disaster against the pass with FIU’s Wesley Carroll completing 16-of-22 passes for 193 yards and a score, and Houston’s Case Keenum and Cotton Turner bombing away for 563 yards and five scores. That means …
What To Watch Out For: … it’s time for AJ McCarron to show he can play. He split time in the opener against Kent State, and while he completed 14-of-23 passes for 226 yards and a score, he also gave up two picks. Against Penn State, he didn’t screw up, but he only threw for 163 yards on 31 passes. No, he hasn’t been bad, but considering the Tide is front and center in the race for the national title, it needs McCarron to become more than just a caretaker to pass time before the defense can do its thing. With Arkansas coming up next, it would be nice if McCarron could light up a bad team just to show he can.
The lone bright spot for North Texas so far has been sophomore Brelan Chancellor, who has been decent with six catches for 104, but he leads the nation in all-purpose yards because he’s had so many chances on kickoff returns. With 17 tries so far, he has made the most of them with 483 yards. Averaging 297 yards per game, he’s coming up with 22.5 yards per game more than the No. 2 man, FIU’s T.Y. Hilton, and 75 yards per game more than Miami running back Lamar Miller. He’ll get plenty of chances on kickoff returns against the Tide.
What Will Happen: Consider it special if North Texas gains more than 50 rushing yards. Alabama’s intensity won’t be there after the Penn State game and with Arkansas ahead, but it won’t matter. This will be when the offense shows up and starts to produce, while the Bama defense is the Bama defense.
CFN Prediction: Alabama 48 … North Texas 6
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Alabama -45.5 O/U: 53.5
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