With head coach Mike Shula gone, life goes
on for the Alabama Crimson Tide (6-6). The lame duck coaching staff has guided the team through its first practices before heading to Shreveport, La. to face Oklahoma State (6-6) in the Independence Bowl on December 28th.
Some have said that this game features two teams with the same record, yet that are heading in the opposite direction. 'Bama was 10-2 a year ago and won the Cotton Bowl against Texas Tech, while Oklahoma St. missed out on a bowl after going 4-7.
The Crimson Tide were actually 3-0 to start the year, but a heartbreaking loss to Arkansas set them back. Moving down the field has not been the problem for them, as they have racked up 340 yards of offense per game. It's getting into the end zone that has been the difficult part, with Alabama only putting up 22.2 points per game. The Crimson Tide leads the SEC with 49 trips inside the 20-yard line but has scored only 17 touchdowns on those red zone opportunities.
Alabama's defense has been solid in keeping the team in games. They allow 287.6 total yards per game, 117.8 rushing yards and 18 points per game, and rank second in the SEC with 25 takeaways this season. Unfortunately for the Alabama pass rush, they only have 12 sacks on the season.
Leading rusher Kenneth Darby, has gained 820 yards this season, but has yet to find the end zone. QB John Parker Wilson has thrown for 211.6 ypg, and 16 touchdowns this season. His favorite target D.J. Hall has missed practice while recovering from nagging shoulder problems. Despite missing a game, Hall still leads the team with 57 catches and five touchdowns on the season.
Oklahoma State may be ahead of schedule from where most people put them at this point in a rebuilding process. A roster littered with freshmen led the Cowboys to three wins in Big 12 play (two more than last season). The young faces made an immediate difference in the lineup. Especially when Dantrell Savage, a Juco transfer, emerged as Oklahoma State's feature back from a three-man mix that also included Mike Hamilton and Keith Toston.
The Cowboys' offense has been stellar as they rank 16th in the nation with 409 yards per game. And it's a balanced attack, gaining over 200 yards through the air with QB Bobby Reid, and on the ground.
Defensively, the youth has taken its toll at times on the Cowboys. Big plays have been the problem this year, as the inability to stop opposing offenses has led Oklahoma St. into wild shootouts.
Doug Kroll is an independent contributor to College Football Poll.com.