Monday, December 26, 2011

Evaluating the Alabama Defense

All the hype surrounding the high-flying offenses of Oklahoma State, Baylor, Houston and Oregon proves that the first half of the old adage is accurate. Offense does sell tickets.

But when Grantland breaks down the Alabama defense, you understand what really wins championships and why the Southeastern Conference will carry home its sixth straight BCS title.

This is must-know material if you really dig getting into the X’s and O’s of the game of football. But if all you want to do is impress the hell out of people you hang out and talk football with, this stuff helps you explain the versatility of the Crimson Tide defense and its potential for big plays.


There will be plenty to say about this matchup in the coming weeks. (Especially since the teams have already played — or hadn't you heard?) But for now, despite all of the above evidence of offenses' increasing dominance, because those offenses were in turn dominated by LSU's and Alabama's defenses there is no choice but to declare this season the year that, channeling William F. Buckley, those two teams stood athwart the march of history yelling, "Stop!" It was the year of defense.

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In the example that begins with the snapshot above, author Chris Brown explains how Alabama showed Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson a Cover 2, while cleverly disguising an actual three-deep zone. Step by step, you learn how Nick Saban shows you an alignment you’ve already seen, inviting you to shift emphasis to take what that defensive set gives you. But at the last second, Saban has his defense switch into an alignment designed to exploit exactly what you were doing to exploit his weakness.

The 3-4 alignment was designed to allow this kind of flexibility and sleight-of-hand. LSU defensive coordinator is just as cagey with his 4-3 playcalling, meaning that the next clash of these two SEC titans is likely to be another hard-fought defensive struggle.

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