Alabama Defense 2015
Aggies not the only team punched by Kirby Smart Saturday
Getting to the top of the mountain, tough. Staying there, oh boy! How does Nick Saban and remarkably Kirby Smart’s Alabama defense 2015 manage a consistency rarely witnessed in college football? Maybe it’s what we saw last Saturday in College Station against the Aggies of Texas A&M. And that is this, Alabama has two competitors every Saturday. First, there’s the one on the opposing side of the field wearing the other school colors whose band plays a different fight song. The second is their chief competitor, the gold standard by which all college football is measured. At Alabama the real competition is wearing Crimson and White, it is Alabama.
Every Alabama team competes against the legacy of The Crimson Tide and this Alabama defense 2015 competes with three championship teams, 2012, 2011 and 2009.
Last Saturday in College Station, the Alabama Vs Texas A&M game turned into a sideline A-day of sorts pitting Lane Kiffin’s offense against Kirby Smart’s defense. With Alabama defenders snatching interceptions from the air like a border collie grabbing a Frisbee they not only set a school record with three interceptions returned for touchdowns, they also managed to outscore Lane Kiffin’s offense.
Reggie Ragland reveled in the amazing defensive outing, which scored 21 points compared to 14 for the offense. Add another six for special teams for the final score Alabama 41 Texas A&M 23. The Aggies were held to 1 passing touchdown, 1 punt return all the way back for a touchdown and 3 field goals. Not much for the Aggie Corps of Cadets to smooch about.
The Alabama Senior inside linebacker from Madison, Alabama, dished out a little Ragland razzing for Tide Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin after the game,
“Any time the defense scores more than the offense, that’s a great day for the defense,”
“I was just joking with coach Kiffin about that. The defense did a great job.”
Coming out on top of three big SEC games in as many weeks and looking better each week, the question is starting to surface, is Alabama defense 2015 as good as the Alabama gold standard teams?
Oh, surely they are, but let’s compare them and see.
In years when Alabama won a national championship, it had a Passing Defense and Rushing Defense both ranked in the top 10 nationally.
Does Alabama have that this year?
It’s half-way there, Alabama has the 3rd best rushing defense in the country. Check-mark. But at mid-season Alabama Defense 2015 is ranked 41st in passing defense.
Ok, so that really didn’t work, so lets look at the offense.
Offense matters too, right?
Through the first six games, Alabama is ranked 68th in passing offense. Does that sound like a national championship team?
Kinda doesn’t, but surprise! It is.
Actually, the 2015 passing offense is ranked higher than Alabama’s last three national championship teams, which had passing offense ranked between 69th and 92nd nationally. But that only works when there’s a stellar rushing game to go with it.
Does Alabama have a stellar rushing game this year?
Alabama is ranked 33rd nationally in rushing offense, which definitely would not suffice to compete with its last three national championship teams, which were ranked no lower than 16th.
So if you’re keeping score, of the four criteria compared so far, Alabama only lives up to its championship years in two of them. They fall short of their predecessors in passing defense and rushing offense.
What about last year when they made it to the College Football Playoff. Did that team match all four?
The 2014 Alabama football team well exceeded the standard set by the previous three Alabama national championship teams in passing offense and came very close to those guy’s gold standard in rushing offense too.
The 2014 passing defense was ranked 59th nationally fell way too low below Bama Champions grade. The rushing defense that year was ranked 4th in the nation, so met the standard.
So of the four pillars, last year’s team had very close to three of them and that got them to the playoff and fell short of winning it.
Don’t like where this story is headed?
If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.
That’s a bad idea. But throw in another pillar for more support. Look at turnover margin rankings.
The three championship teams had turnover margins ranked 23rd or higher nationally. Last year Alabama’s turnover margin was 73rd. This year it falls short of the magical mark at 38th national ranking.
Darn, that didn’t work.
But throw out the 5 turnovers in the Ole Miss game and viola! then Alabama is ranked in the top 10 nationally in turnover margin.
Is that a fair way to judge the team?
Not really, because the other teams in the national ranking probably have turnovers they’d like back too. But have those teams made the remarkable strides of improvement as this Alabama team?
What’s exciting about this Alabama team is their steady improvement week-to-week in these last three SEC games, at Georgia 38 – 10, Arkansas 27 – 14 and at Texas A&M 41 – 23. Simply, Alabama plays better every week. Coming up they compete at home against Tennessee and LSU and then away at Mississippi State and of course the Iron Bowl is at Auburn this year.
Do they currently have the stats to match Nick Sabans previous 3 national championship teams?
Can they get there?
Yes, as long as they show continuous improvement.
If this Alabama defense 2015 is on the same page as Cyrus Jones, they will go all the way.
“I just think we have to be hungry at all times,”
“We’re going to be one of the most well-prepared teams and secondary in the country week in and week out.
I just think as long as we get our personal attitude under control and knowing what we’re going out there to do, coming out there with that chip on our shoulder,
I think the sky is the limit for us.”
What more could anyone expect of their coaches, their players and themselves?
Photo Credit: Alabama Defensive Coordinator, Kirby Smart by USA TodaySport, Alabama Eddie Jackson Interception by Eric Gay Associated Press, Alabama Offensive Coordinator, Lane Kiffin, by gettyImages Scott Halleran.
Stats Credit: cfbstats.com