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Don’t Overlook Alabama’s Defense

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Inaccurately, there has been a common talking point this fall that Alabama's defense has taken a dramatic step back.

Inaccurately, there has been a common talking point this fall that Alabama's defense has taken a dramatic step back. Even understanding that "best", the Crimson Tide's own unparalleled past, is the constant barometer, the notion of an overwhelming regression is simply not correct. Admittedly, Alabama's remarkable offensive production has shifted the team paradigm; the Crimson Tide defense, however, has largely remained where it has long been. Alabama, with a more up-tempo style, still ranks third nationally allowing just 13.8 points per game.  

Entering the SEC Championship Game and College Football Playoff, the Crimson Tide defense is actually playing some of its most-dominant crunch time football of the Nick Saban era. For the month of November, Alabama, having faced two nationally-ranked teams, a triple-option offense and rival Auburn, is giving up only 9.5 points per game in that span; that November total is the third-best margin 12 years into Saban's Tuscaloosa tenure. The Crimson Tide's 230.8 yards per game given up this November is a lower number than Alabama's last three national championship teams.

On the season, the Crimson Tide defense has been one of the nation's best and most-balanced. Alabama is one of just two defenses having surrendered less than 1,370 yards rushing and 2,020 yards passing this fall, is tied for the fewest first downs allowed in Power Five football, is tied for the fewest rushing touchdowns allowed and is 5th in opponent completion percentage. The Crimson Tide, situationally, are 3rd in redzone defense and 9th in third down defense. This and Alabama has faced three top 21 offenses nationally.

The Crimson Tide are number two on ESPN's defensive efficiency index and number one, by a notable margin, on Football Outsiders' Defensive Fremeau Index. 

Individually, defensive lineman Quinnen Williams has recently been named a finalist for the Bednarik, Nagurski and Outland awards and linebacker Dylan Moses was recognized as a finalist for the Butkus. Talents like linemen Raekwon Davis and Isaiah Buggs, linebacker Mack Wilson and safety Deionte Thompson are also considered among the best at their position in the country.   

This is a different Alabama team, one with Heisman Trophy favorite Tua Tagovailoa putting up record-setting numbers at quarterback for an offense, averaging 49 points and 538 yards per game, reserving its own place in history. That said, the Crimson Tide defense is still playing at a championship level. The tradition of having one of college football's truly elite units continues.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports