No, Alabama might not be better than it was a season ago. It might not be better than it was the season before that or the season before that.
Such is the qualifier of every discussion about Alabama's prospects. Truthfully, though, how the Tide compares to previous years doesn't matter. This year's team is still the No. 1-ranked squad in the country. It's still undefeated. And it's still in position to compete for a national championship. By that measure, Alabama is doing just fine.
When asked how he felt at the midway point of the season and where he felt his team needed to improve, UA head coach Nick Saban rattled off a bunch of areas before saying matter-of-factly, "It'd be easier to answer that question if you said, 'Is there anything you don't need to improve on?' "
After a rough start in which the offense and defense took turns looking shaky, stability has taken hold. A 31-0 rout of Ole Miss a few weeks ago did much to calm the waters. The same defense that was terrorized into giving up the most yards in school history by Texas A&M in early September has regained its dominant form. A 14-quarter run of keeping opponents out of the end zone ended Saturday only after two defensive backs collided in coverage, leaving the receiver wide open. And the offense, which couldn't run the ball early on against Virginia Tech and again against Colorado State, has solidified. The one-two combination of T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake has produced 541 yards and seven touchdowns in the last three games.
The next three weeks should be a breeze for Alabama. Arkansas is 3-4, Tennessee is 3-3, neither team has an SEC win and the Tide is undefeated against the bye. So at least the Tide will have some time to prepare for LSU on Nov. 9, a game that has come to represent a sort of SEC West divisional title game.
Then is when we'll learn with some level of certainty whether Alabama is ready to stand on the same level of its championship-winning predecessors in Tuscaloosa. Because while style points are fun to talk about, the only thing that really matters from year to year is championships.
Offensive MVP: AJ McCarron
He has shown some outward signs of frustration this season, but between the lines he has been the same old AJ McCarron, steady as the day is long. Call him a game manager. Call him whatever you'd like. But the kid wins ballgames and makes very few mistakes in the process. With the running game still finding its legs, he has taken on even more responsibility this season. Against Kentucky, he threw for a career high 359 yards, bringing his season total to 1,401 yards. He is currently second in the SEC in passing yards per game.
Defensive MVP: C.J. Mosley
Consistency is something Nick Saban craves. The head coach of the Crimson Tide has uttered the phrase "consistency of performance" only about a billion times this season. And no one on his roster embodies that idea better than Mosley, who is routinely at or near the top of the stat sheet for total tackles each game. But more than his team-leading 48 tackles, it's his leadership that has meant the most to Alabama. On a defense that has had it's battles, he has been a constant.