Grantland Blog: Evaluating Alabama’s defense

It’s up over at the Grantland Blog:

… Whether pro-style, Air raid, or spread-to-run, we’re living in offense-dominated times.

That is, except in the game that (rightly or wrongly) crowns the champion: LSU-Alabama. Indeed, that game features the country’s most dynamic and exciting defensive player in Tyrann Mathieu (who might end up no better than the third- or fourth-best NFL prospect in LSU’s secondary) and one of the most statistically dominating defenses of the past decade in Alabama.

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.

Read the whole thing.

  • A couple of tidbits about that Alabama defense:

    1) Looking at the number of plays per game allowed, Alabama is head and shoulders beyond the rest. Alabama’s defense was on the field for 56.3 snaps per contest. Wisconsin:  60.4Army: 60.5Michigan: 60.6Georgia: 60.8

    2) It’s not just a matter of pace. Looking at the difference in Yards Per Play, the Tide gives up less than 3.4, while LSU gives up 3.96. (The national average is just a shade under 5.49 yards per play.)

    LSU is 3.5 standard deviations ahead of the norm, with South Carolina’s 2.6 standard deviations coming in third place.  Alabama stands alone, at 6.6 standard deviations from the mean. Downright scary. (Kansas had the nation’s worst defense, at 4.17 standard deviations — far worse than the 119th team in Ball State, with 2.45)

    How does this stack up against Oklahoma State?
    – Yards Per Play:  5.31 (ranking 52nd)
    – Plays Per Game: 84 (ranking 120th)

  • Anonymous

    FWIW- Plays per game is also largely a function of tempo on offense. Look at some of the better Oklahoma defenses of the past few years while factoring in that their offense often led the nation in plays per game. 

  • knox harrington

    Crazy thing about that Bama D, I hear a guy named Kirby tries to steal some of the credit. Good thing you didn’t mention him so he can’t this time around! (I kid, I kid)…Great read. I love these types of posts.

  • Oh, I totally agree about the pace issues, but those alone don’t account for the wide margin in the metrics.

    The numbers when adjusted for strength of competition aren’t as wide, but still impressive.

  • Guy

    Haven’t watched the play live-Was Menzie lined up pre-snap, or booking it to #1? Is there any chance Menzie just over-ran his assignment and had outside leverage by accident? If Saban/Smart are purposely having Menzie play outside-in, are they banking on Wilson recognizing the corner’s bail, reading Cover three, and assuming Menzie will have inside leverage?

  • Bryant Denny

    Call me crazy, but Wilson appears to read the coverage correctly.  The receiver started running the right pattern but stopped.  If the receiver keeps running, he gets at least 8-10 yards.  So played it wrong – Wilson or the receiver?

    By the way, Petrino was giving Wilson and earful after the play.  That may be a clue…

  • Paul Meisel

    Outstanding defenses, to be sure, but I think some of it is just shear depth of great talent.  Every year guys move on and their replacements are just as good…..

    It reminds me of an Ohio State player from the  60s who said their scout team could easily beat 8 of the other Big Ten teams…..

  • Bama

    Where do you get 7 non winning records from??????  They have 5 with nonwinning records….. guess you are just another media want-a-be that hates Bama!  Still not great, but it is the facts!  Wonder how many attempted murder teams have at the QB position??????

  • Bama

    By the way, Tyrann Mathieu was 25% in defending passes against Bama….  He is one of the best returns guys in college, but as a defender, his skills are weak.  Just wait until BCS game and it will be exposed!  Bama threw to the WR that Tyrann Mathieu was coverign and that WR caught it 6 of the 8 times! (92 yards).  Plus TR ran over all 4 of those NFL DB’s in one play!