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Critical factors Alabama must improve upon to win a national championship

Alabama DB Khyree Jackson (#6) celebrates a play with CB Terrion Arnold (#3) versus Texas
Photo comes via SEC Media Portal

Alabama football is not a national championship team right now, but Nick Saban can get this group there.

Texas exposed the Crimson Tide in some areas, despite Alabama inking out a victory. The Tide committed several mental errors, uncharacteristic penalties, could not sustain drives, could not finish plays on defense, and Bryce Young still pushed it to a win.

RELATED: Nick Saban insinuates Eli Ricks is struggling in practice which explains Texas no-show

Media pundits and fans see Georgia as the measuring stick in college football.

Tide fans wonder how its team stacks up against the Bulldogs every week. Before it looks at Georgia, Alabama needs some aspects to get better before it faces Arkansas. The offensive line is the first area of improvement. Coach Saban and Eric Wolford need to select five starters and stick with them. A unit cannot build continuity if players keep shifting players around. If the best starting five happens to be Tyler Steen, Javion Cohen, Darrian Dalcourt, Emil Ekiyor Jr., and JC Latham, then roll with that group.

Alabama needs to allow this group to grow in man-blocking for the run game. Pass protection has been better than what it was last year, but the Tide needs to pick five guys and roll. Bill O’Brien must improve his play-calling for the wide receivers.

If players are not getting open on routes, go to screen passes, pop passes, jet sweeps, or slants. O’Brien has to get playmakers opportunities in space and spread defenses out. Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian both mastered it. They were elite in isolating Alabama’s best players onto an opponent’s worst defender. Kiffin had jet sweeps for ArDarius Stewart, and it worked.

RELATED: Offensive woes continue in year two under Bill O’Brien in ugly win over Texas

Sarkisian created plenty of matchups for DeVonta Smith, John Metchie, and Jaylen Waddle to take advantage.

The Tide may get two explosive receivers back — JoJo Earle and Tyler Harrell — for the Arkansas game, but O’Brien has to prepare receivers better with simple plays to get open. Alabama’s defensive front needs more players it can trust to sack quarterbacks and finish plays on running backs. Jaylen Moody has stepped up, but Will Anderson and Dallas Turner need more than the fifth-year senior linebacker. The team is full of veterans, but the guys are not rising to the occasion. It could be an opportunity to look at young players such as Jaheim Oatis, Kendrick Blackshire, Deontae Lawson, Jihaad Campbell, and Tim Kennan III more. Alabama has to have others that can help Anderson and Turner finish plays versus opposing offenses.

Who are the best two starting cornerbacks for the Tide?

Alabama needs to quickly figure it out. Kool-Aid McKinstry and Khyree Jackson are talented, but neither is playing winning football right now. Terrion Arnold, a redshirt freshman, is playing with confidence. He came off the bench in the second half versus Texas and handled receiver Xavier Worthy. Eli Ricks, a transfer cornerback from LSU, has all the physical tools needed to be an impact player, but Saban insinuated that he is struggling at practice. If that is the case, then Alabama has a problem.

It cannot put Brian Branch at cornerback because he serves better at nickel.

Maybe, the Tide could look at Malachi Moore for the position. He did bulk up in the offseason and has the size (6-0/190) to perform the job. Arnold has shown fans he can be one cornerback, but someone has to take the other spot with confidence.

A national championship can happen for Alabama if it cleans up the bolded areas.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith. 

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