To some, it may seem like the ultimate in first-world college football problems, but Alabama continues to seek both a high-scoring offense and a time-consuming offense.
The high-scoring objective is being met each week, as the top-ranked Crimson Tide have racked up at least 42 points in every game during their 5-0 start entering Saturday's matchup at No. 24 Texas A&M, which has a 3:30 p.m. EDT kickoff on CBS. Controlling more of the clock would help coach Nick Saban from a defensive standpoint, with that side of the ball having already lost starting inside linebackers Joshua McMillon and Dylan Moses for the season and defensive end LaBryan Ray until next month.
"As an offense, we need to be able to go out there and sustain drives to keep our defense off the field and to give them some rest and try to wear their defense out," Alabama junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said this week in a news conference. "Our mindset offensively never changes, but once Coach Saban says you need to slow down the tempo, then we kind of understand what he's asking of us.
"That's when we end up running the ball maybe first and second down, and third down becomes really important, because we hope to extend that drive. Once you get a first down, you kind of try and do the same thing."
Alabama has started two true freshmen on the defensive line and two true freshmen at inside linebacker for most of the season, with those newcomers getting plenty of playing time. In its Southeastern Conference opener at South Carolina on Sept. 14, Alabama's defense was on the field for 86 plays and allowed 31 first downs and 459 yards in the 47-23 victory.
The Tide's second SEC game, a 59-31 downing of Ole Miss on Sept. 28, brought more of the same, with Alabama defenders spending 88 plays on the field and yielding 476 yards and 25 first downs.
Saban insisted this week that he would never try to slow an offense producing touchdowns, no matter how rapidly, with the game in the balance. The Tide enter their game against the Aggies (3-2, 1-1) averaging 554.6 yards and 51.8 points per game, as well as 8.3 yards a snap, with the running game complementing a loaded passing attack.
Alabama is averaging 174.0 rushing yards a game and 5.3 yards per rush, with junior Najee Harris heading the ground game with 337 yards and 6.2 a carry.
"I'm kind of watching how the other team is responding to our tempo and how our tempo is affecting how we execute on offense," Saban explained. "The only time I ever try to slow the offense down is when we're taking the air out of it at the end of the game and trying to make the clock an advantage for us. I'm never telling them to slow down or try to keep the ball or any of that stuff.
"We play better when we play a little faster, and that's what I'm trying to impact in a game."
In between Alabama's showings against South Carolina and Ole Miss was a 49-7 drubbing of Southern Mississippi, which Saban believes is the most complete contest his team has played this season. The offense was its usual self, with Tagovailoa throwing for five touchdowns, including two apiece to Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, while the defense gave up just 226 yards and 15 first downs.
As a result, the defense was on the field for only 58 plays.
Alabama had two single-play scoring drives of 75 and 74 yards in its 62-10 pasting of New Mexico State, and the Tide went 96 yards in four plays for a touchdown at South Carolina and 90 yards in four plays for a score against Ole Miss. Again, there will be no apologizing for quick strikes and quick points, but that is not the perfect scenario Alabama desires.
"An eight-play drive would be more reasonable for Coach Saban as far as us on the field," Tagovailoa said.