A how-to guide to beating Alabama

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Jim McElwain doesn't buy much into the notion of Alabama's ability to be beaten. He didn't think so before his Colorado State Rams lost to the top-ranked Crimson Tide on Saturday and he didn't think so the following Monday. Losing was expected. They were, after all, something like a five touchdown underdog.

"They weren't going to show us anything they were holding for an SEC opponent," McElwain said. "I understand that."

But McElwain, who served as Nick Saban's offensive coordinator at UA from 2008-11, did have his team poke some holes in the Tide's aura of invincibility, despite maybe not getting its all. The 31-6 final score wasn't what anyone expected from Alabama's home opener. After the game, a sense of frustration spilled over from the locker room as an agitated AJ McCarron and others lamented their poor performance.

They weren't good enough, not by Alabama standards and certainly not by the standards of a team hoping to go undefeated during the regular season. Though many of the mistakes they made were minimal, they did add up -- a slow bleed no one is certain has yet scabbed over. As veteran linebacker C.J. Mosley put it, "Some of those little things will get us beat next week."

"I'm not satisfied with where we are as a football team," Saban said.

Nor should he be. Through three games, Alabama has rather obvious holes ranging from an ineffective offensive line to a porous secondary. Colorado State showed those deficiencies, even in defeat.

It was no fun being cannon fodder. The downtrodden tone in McElwain's voice over the phone on Monday said as much. Missed opportunities haunted his thoughts over the weekend.

"You might get them once," he said. "But they do such a good job on the sideline that they'll have an answer. They don't sit there very long and say, 'What are we going to do?' They have an answer immediately."

Though CSU, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech ultimately lost to Alabama, they helped provide a blueprint Ole Miss could use to upset the defending national champions Saturday. The 21st-ranked Rebels gave the Tide all it could handle a season ago, losing 33-14.

A year wiser with a blueprint in hand, maybe this time will be different.

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