Alabama defense can do no wrong
November, 8, 2013
By Rob Nelson | ESPN.com
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesThe Alabama defense has punished opposing quarterbacks.
Alabama has won two straight BCS National Championships and has a record of 33-2 since the start of the 2011 season. Alabama’s defense ranks at the top of nearly every statistical category during that span and is the only team to allow fewer than 10 points per game and 250 yards per game. Alabama has shut out its opponent nine times in the last three seasons, four more than any other FBS team.
Recently, Alabama has been playing some of its best defense in the Nick Saban era.
In the six games since allowing 42 points to Texas A&M, its most under Nick Saban, Alabama has outscored its opponents 246-26. The Crimson Tide have scored five more touchdowns (31) than its opponents have points (26) during that time.
In those games, Alabama has allowed two touchdowns in 67 opponent drives (three percent), by far the lowest touchdown percentage in the FBS. No other team has allowed fewer than six touchdowns during that time. After allowing Johnny Manziel to post a Total QBR of 74.0 against them, the Tide have held opposing quarterbacks to a 17.9 QBR in the last six games.
Even more impressive is Alabama’s dominance in the first half.
The Tide have not allowed a single point before halftime in its past six games. In three of the last six games, Alabama’s opponents did not run a first-half play in Alabama territory.
There have been nine pass attempts by opponents on the Alabama’s side of the field in the first half during the last six games, with opponents throwing more interceptions (3) than completions (1), including an interception returned for a touchdown by Landon Collins against Tennessee.
The Tide have had an average winning probability at halftime of 95 percent in its past six games. In those games, only Ole Miss (16 percent) had more than a seven percent chance of winning at halftime, according to ESPN Stats & information’s win probability model.
They key to Alabama’s defensive success has been its ability to control the line of scrimmage. The Tide have pressured opposing quarterbacks on 26 percent of its dropbacks this season, the highest percentage in the SEC. They have also allowed an SEC-low 2.0 yards before first contact on designed runs.
Alabama will be tested this week as SEC West rival LSU comes to Tuscaloosa. Last season, Zach Mettenberger posted a Total QBR of 83.0 against Alabama, the highest allowed by the Crimson Tide since Utah’s Brian Johnson had a 85.5 in the 2009 Sugar Bowl.