Sports Illustrated is not afraid to say it. Alabama’s defense could end the season as one of the best in college football history. And with good reason. Seven current members of the Crimson Tide defense are projected to be either first- or second-round picks in next April’s NFL draft. No defense has ever yielded that many choices over the first three rounds in at least 35 years. Says safety Mark Barron (page 42): “I talk to guys in the league who were my teammates, and they say what we do on defense [at Alabama] is harder to learn than the NFL schemes. I’m still learning new things.” -- Inside Sports Illustrated
Through five games and defeating three Top 25 opponents, this Tide team certainly has the stats to make us believers:
1st in the nation in Scoring Defense;
1st in the nation in Rushing Defense;
2nd in the nation and 1st in the SEC in Pass Efficiency Defense;
3rd in the nation and 1st in the SEC in Total Defense; and
5th in the nation and 3rd in the SEC in Pass Defense.
And for the record Bama tops LSU in all of those defensive categories, just in case there was a question.
The Tide’s dismantling of the No. 12 Florida Gators on the national stage this past weekend opened many eyes to the overwhelming physical dominance of this team. Florida came into the contest leading the SEC with 259 yards per game and was held to just 15 yards on the ground. The Gators said Alabama made it tough to get in any kind of rhythm running the ball. Bama linebacker Dont’a Hightower puts it another way, “[W]e knew we had our foot on their throat and we didn’t let up.”
"We had to … out-physical them at the line of scrimmage.”
– SI Cover Man, Alabama noseguard Josh Chapman
Prominent sportswriters believe this Tide defense is so powerful, so relentless and ruthless, that all future opponents come into games at a decided disadvantage. Alabama has now won 38 of its last 41 regular-season games. If it can add seven more this year, the conference championship game awaits as the last stepping stone to New Orleans and another national crown.
ESPN is a believer in the title winning ways of a strong Alabama defense. Its “Storied” series will air a new documentary “The Play That Changed College Football,” featuring the 1992 Tide defense’s role in the very first conference championship game in college football. Alabama met Florida at Legion Field for the SEC inaugural championship and won the game when MVP cornerback Antonio Langham returned an interception for 27 yards and the winning score.
Bama went on to crush defending national champion Miami 34-13 in the Sugar Bowl, a loss Heisman winning quarterback Gino Torretta never got over. Coming into the game, the Tide defense led the nation in fewest points allowed and, true to form, did not allow the Canes a single offensive touchdown. That game produced one of the most memorable Crimson Tide defensive plays in history, The Strip, as well as Alabama’s twelfth national championship.
Can the 2011 defense live up to its dominating predecessors? For the first time since 2000, the AP Poll No. 1 and 2 teams reside in the same division – LSU and Alabama. It returns ten starters from last season and has scored two touchdowns on interceptions so far this year. Bama has faced the top two offenses in the SEC (Arkansas and Florida) and not only beat them, but beat them up. And it’s allowing only 8.4 points per game, better than the 2009 defense (11.7) and the 1992 defense (9.2).
More than anything, this Crimson Tide defense has a desire to create its own legacy – to write its name in crystal and Crimson flame.
What a nice gift another trophy would make for Coach Saban’s official 100 game wins in the SEC.
You can follow me on Twitter @LivingCrimson.