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Until facing LSU, Bama needed under 2 minutes to score its first TD each week

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The Tide have scored on their opening possession in every game. Most of the time, it’s happened in three plays or fewer. Then they went to Death Valley.

Missouri v Alabama Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Alabama’s offense is scary good this season, as is quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. It’s not about the schedule. Tagovailoa’s first six games, leading up to another win against Missouri in Week 7, compared favorably with various Heisman winners’ best six games.

Alabama having a good offense isn’t surprising. What’s somewhat surprising is how quick the Tide are in kicking their opponents’ asses. There is no such thing as a slow start for this Tide offense. Scoring 30 points in the first half against Mizzou is about the closest anyone’s come to considering a Tide start “sluggish.”

Alabama reliably scores on its first drive, through eight games they are the only team in the country to do so. Here’s how fast they did it before the streak stopped against LSU.

1. Louisville: It took 3:05, and Bama scored on the seventh play of the game.

This seven-play, 65-yard drive moved swiftly down the field and into the end zone to start the season.

2. Arkansas State: It took 1:41, and Bama scored on the fifth play of the game.

Five plays, 75 yards. No big deal.

3. Ole Miss: It took 59 seconds on Bama’s first drive of the game.

Ole Miss got the ball first and scored on its first play of the game. The Rebels kicked it to the Tide, who scored on their third offensive play of the game.

This came 1:21 into the game in total.

4. Texas A&M: It took eight seconds on Bama’s first drive of the game.

Texas A&M got the ball first and proceeded to throw an interception two plays into the game. Bama wasted little time making the Aggies pay for it.

5. UL Lafayette: It took 3:35, and Bama scored on the eighth play of the game.

This was by yardage (72) the longest opening drive of the season for Alabama. That’s gotta count for something for the Ragin’ Cajuns, I guess.

6. Arkansas: It took 21 seconds, and Bama scored on the first play of the game.

And it’s even funnier in the stationary camera angle ESPN was forced to use due to severe weather. (The catch happens at around the 25-yard line.)

7. Missouri: It took 23 seconds, and Bama scored on the second play of the game.

81 yards, right to the end zone.

8. Tennessee: It took 4:02, and Bama scored on the ninth play of the game.

The Vols take the lead in holding up the longest on a Bama opening drive by time and amount of plays (nine), earning the mantle from the Ragin’ Cajuns in those two areas. Tennessee even forced Bama into a 3rd-and-10!

But in the end, Jerry Jeudy in the back of that checkerboarded end zone keeps the Tide’s game-opening momentum going.

This throw is incredible, but even more stunning is how long Tagovailoa had to make it. CBS clocked it and before making this throw, he had seven seconds in the pocket.

While UT held up well on this drive, in the 20 real minutes it took to update this post with this drive, the Vols allowed two more touchdowns on only three Bama offensive plays, including a 77-yard TD pass.

Average all that together:

That’s 4.5 plays and 1:46 per opening scoring drive.

A contributing factor to the effect this can have on the game is what happens before the opening kickoff.

When Bama wins the coin toss, the Tide take the ball almost every time. The Tide have won the toss in 5-9 games, and elected to receive in four of those games. Plenty of teams actually defer, but Nick Saban actually likes to take the ball when he can.

“I always want the wind in the fourth quarter if the wind is significant in the game,” he said. “If you defer, you may not have the opportunity to do that because in the second half, you have to take the ball and they get to pick which way they kick. So if that’s the case, I’d rather start the game poorly and have a better chance to finish it with the wind factor in your favor than the other way.“

But the biggest factor is, of course, the Tide’s elite (and fast) offense.

But against LSU, the Tigers were ready to stand tall on the opening drive

After a strikingly discombobulated opening drive, the Tide did not score in Death Valley — although they did score on the second.

Jerry Jeudy lost 8 yards on a catch from Tua Tagovailoa to bring up a second-and-18. Then Tagovailoa threw an incompletion — one of a massive three on the drive.

Then Alabama false started on back-to-back plays, turning a third-and-18 into a third-and-28, before running for a loss of 2 and punting the ball away.

We’ll see if Alabama gets back to normal in Game 10.