Hey Bama Fans, Here’s A Defensive Reality Check
This ain't your daddy's Crimson Tide defense.
This is a new era of college football. We've seen a slow evolution of the game we love that has made its way into the SEC. The days of shutting out even the most inferior of opponents are gone. The days of holding even the most inferior of offenses to less than 250 yards of offense are gone.
The days of even the most talented Nick Saban lead defenses appearing faultless are gone.
Defensive football as you and I once knew it is gone.
Alabama's 2020 defense? It is just fine.
I know, I know. Jacob, Alabama gave up 450 total yards of offense and 24 points! Kellen Mond threw for 318 yards and you are always going on about how mediocre he is!
I get it. But let's take a dive into this, shall we?
First of all, giving up yards defensively doesn't matter. At all. The rules of this sport are designed to allow offenses to move the ball, particularly through the air. Let's just look at the facts: it is considered effective to average just over four yards per rush and just over seven yards per pass completion. It is considered effective to rush the ball for about 100 yards in a game and 300 yards passing. A balanced team can do both and average about 400 yards per game total.
Naturally, 73 teams, about half of the FBS division, allowed 400 or fewer yards a game in 2019. Alabama ranked 21st in yards allowed with 324.6 yards allowed per game. That sounds bad, sure, but consider this: only 14 teams ahead of them were Power 5 teams. Suddenly, Alabama is a top 15 defensive team, but that's just yardage wise.
Now here's why yards don't matter: turnovers and points. In 2019, Alabama ranked 13th in points allowed, however only 10 teams ahead of them were Power 5 teams. As for the turnovers, Alabama ranked second with 2.2 takeaways a game, that is until you realize only Florida Atlantic averaged more takeaways.
Now let's consider Texas A&M's final drive of the day Saturday. The Aggies trotted out a new quarterback in freshman Haynes King. He marched his team 60 yards down the field before throwing an interception to freshman Malachi Moore in the endzone. So, marching 60 yards sounds bad right? Well, no, because at the end of the day, Texas A&M has nothing to show from those yards. Sure, they have film on successful route combinations. But points win games.
Gaining yards is completely meaningless if you don't score points. Conversely, allowing yards is completely meaningless if your defense prevents points.
But, Alabama allowed 24 points, surely that is not good, right? Again, no. 99 teams averaged more than 24 points per game last year. 99! The rules are in the offense's favor, and yet a year ago Alabama averaged just 18.6 points allowed per game.
And that was a defense fans and analysts alike considered a step in the wrong direction.
Understand, I'm using last year as a reference to the evolution of the sport. This 2020 defense is young and has room for improvement. Nick Saban demands perfection and as such so do Alabama fans. But let's be realistic, this team has been spectacular in the face of a tumultuous offseason and personnel turnover in the secondary. We've seen discipline, tenacity, and improvement. This defense has elite pieces in place and young pieces like Will Anderson and Moore that look to be the next to step up.
But the nature of this sport now is obvious. Teams will gain yards and teams will score points. Next week, Ole Miss will score points and gain yards, likely a lot of them.
But that's okay because the days of fighting for every yard are over.
The days of winning 14-0 and running the ball to victory are gone.
Perfection is unattainable. Pete Golding's defense is fine.