Posted by Jerry Hinnen
ALABAMA WON: The nation's No. 2 team had as little trouble with MAC visitor Kent State as expected, scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions and cruising to a 48-7 victory. The vaunted Tide defense held the Golden Flashes without a first down for the game's first 23 minutes and to just 89 yards overall.
WHY ALABAMA WON: Many, many reasons. But one was the play of redshirt sophomore quarterback AJ McCarron, who despite still not having been named the official starter took the Tide's first snap and played the first three series, the second ending with a perfectly-placed 24-yard touchdown pass to Marquis Maze.
McCarron finished a respectable 15-of-24 for 232 yards and a touchdowns, though his 2 interceptions won't sit well with Nick Saban. Even given Kent's relative strength on the defensive line, the Tide running game wasn't quite as powerful as expected -- Trent Richardson's potential Heisman campaign began with three touchdowns but just 65 yards -- but if McCarron can improve on today's performance by just a few degrees, Alabama's aerial attack should be able to maintain the team's offensive balance all the same.
As for McCarron co-starter Phillip Sims, the redshirt freshman looked physically capable but simply not comfortable enough in the pocket for a national title contender. He finished 7-of-14 for just 45 yards with 2 interceptions--one a starkly poor decision that set Kent up at the 3-yard line for their only score of the game. Knowing Saban's aversion to turnovers, McCarron is now the heavy favorite to get the full-time starting nod.
WHEN ALABAMA WON: The moment the game was scheduled, frankly. But Richardson's 9-yard touchdown run to close out the first quarter with a 21-0 Alabama lead -- at which point the Tide had outgained the Flashes 157 to -3 -- made it more-or-less official.
WHAT ALABAMA WON: Given the overwhelming final margin of victory and level of defensive dominance, potentially a few more No. 1 votes in the polls if Oklahoma struggles with Tulsa later Saturday. But Saban will no doubt say the bigger positives are getting a clear leader in the quarterbacking derby, breaking in what few new starters the Tide needed to break in in a nearly pressure-less situation, and polishing up the team's handful of blemishes before the season starts in earnest at Penn State next week.
WHAT KENT STATE LOST: Maybe a little bit of confidence in their offensive execution; 89 total yards is 89 total yards. But given the opponent -- and that their Roosevelt Nix-led defensive line stood up as well as it did -- we think the boost to the Flashes' checking account and the experience of playing in front of 100,000-plus will make today a net positive for the program.