Down deep, Alabama’s Mark Ingram already knew it.
But standing on the sideline those first two games while recovering from knee surgery, the Crimson Tide’s Heisman Trophy winner saw firsthand what a lot of opposing defensive coordinators are going to see all season.
This is an Alabama team that can beat you any way it wants to offensively.
“We have so many ways we can attack a defense,” Ingram said. “There’s nothing like it, to have so many different options, and that’s why our offense is so explosive.”
Not to mention incredibly balanced.
In fact, longtime Alabama observers will tell you they can’t remember a more diverse offense than the one the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide will put on the field Saturday at Razorback Stadium.
They’re fourth nationally in total offense, ninth in scoring offense, and in three games, have produced 24 plays of 20 yards or longer. That’s more than anybody else in college football.
Alabama is averaging 15.9 yards for every pass completion. And, yes, that’s more than Arkansas.
Speaking of which, Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy is leading the country in passing efficiency.
“We have a lot of confidence moving the ball through the air and on the ground this year,” McElroy said. “We’re already deep in our playbook and feel confident about running any of our stuff.”
Better yet, the Crimson Tide have their mainstay back, and he looks better than ever. Ingram rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries last week against Duke. He had 119 yards by halftime.
With SEC play beginning, Ingram has a message for anybody who plans on crowding the line to stop Alabama’s running game.
The Crimson Tide can still line up and pound you with the best of them, but they’re equally capable of throwing it over your head and spreading it around to Julio Jones, Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks.
“Last year, we could throw it a little bit, but a lot of people were stacking the box on us,” Ingram said. “This year, we’re having so much success throwing the ball that they really can’t load the box on us. If they do, we’re going to air it out and have success that way. If they drop back, we’re going to run it on them.
“It’s all falling into place right now, because this offense is clicking. There’s always room for improvement, but the sky is the limit for this offense if we keep working and keep pushing.”
Alabama has more passing yards (874) than rushing yards (752) to this point.
“We haven’t reached our potential yet, not even close,” Ingram said. “I want to see this offense when everybody’s in sync and when we’re not making any mistakes.”
The Crimson Tide have shown a lot of different looks to opponents, and the Pistol formation with McElroy lined up a little closer to the center in the shotgun and a running back directly behind him has been one of their favorite plays for running the ball. Ingram and Trent Richardson have combined to run 28 times for 329 yards from the Pistol, an average of 11.8 yards per carry.
“Our different formations give us so much versatility,” McElroy said. “The great thing about our offense is that we can run the same plays with two tight ends and two running backs as we can with five wideouts and no running backs.
“We’re able to mix formations and mix personnel. But what our offense is based on is getting the ball in our playmakers’ hands.”
Three games into the 2010 season, the Crimson Tide have done that as well as anybody.