By Shane from Centerpoint
There is nothing new or revolutionary about the â€œprocessâ€ Alabama coach Nick Saban uses to build a winning football team. The Crimson Tide head coach utilizes an extremely tough off-season conditioning program and combines it with the simple philosophy that great defense and a superb running game are paramount to being successful and consistent enough to win a national championship.
This yearâ€™s team exemplifies Coach Sabanâ€™s idea that relentless intensity and perfect execution of the fundamentals usually produce a victory on the gridiron.
Alabama â€˜s identity is wellâ€“established after ten games, with there being no secrets about their intention to run the ball, stop the run and play a suffocating brand of defense.
How good is this yearâ€™s defense? Judging by the statistics, they are setting a pace that may lead them to finish as the best to ever wear the crimson jersey.
After ten games, a list of the Crimson Tides national rankings and the supporting numbers will definitely evoke â€œshadesâ€ of the vaunted 1992 championship defense.
First and foremost, no team has been able to run on Alabama. The Tide is currently ranked 2nd against the run â€“ allowing only 72 yards per game.
Bama also excels in pass coverage. They are ranked 11th against the pass â€“ allowing only 166 yards per game.
The Tide is ranked 3rd in overall total defense, with opponents averaging 240 yards per outing.
Throw in the fact that Bama is giving up only 10.5 points a game (national rank 2nd) and has allowed only 10 touchdowns (4â€“rush / 6-pass) all year, this defense starts to look extraordinary.
Include the other defensive categories that Alabama ranks very high in and this squad looks scary. They are 2nd in passâ€“efficiency defense, holding opposing quarterbacks to a low percentage (47%). The Tide also has 28 sacks, which puts them at 15th in the country. Throw in 72 tackles-for-loss, a plus-10 turnover margin (ranked 10th with 15 interceptions), and life is tough for opposing offenses. Additionally, Bama is ranked 4th in â€œred zoneâ€ defense and 4th in first-downs allowed per game â€“ holding their opponents to a mere 29% third-down conversion rate.
Like I said, this group of defenders may very well finish as the best Bamaâ€™s ever had, and there have been some ultra- impressive championship squads throughout history.
The second phase of Sabanâ€™s process â€“ a strong running game â€“ has one of the best tandems in the nation.
Heisman frontrunner Mark Ingram has racked up 1522 yards (1297 rushing / 225 receiving / 12 TDâ€™s) in the first 10 groundâ€“wars. He is on course to break the Alabama single-season rushing record. Ingram is a thoroughbred runner who has those unique traits common to the best of the best â€” speed, power, and elusiveness.
His backup, Trent Richardson, is almost as dangerous as Ingram. Richardson has shown flashes of brilliance and he exudes an uncommon maturity for a true freshman. His on-field ability leaves those who watch him with no doubt that he has the potential to vie for the Heisman himself one day.
Bottom line: both tailbacks are exactly what Nick Saban wants from that position. Both of these guys can pound out three yards or turn it into a 60â€“yard touchdown â€“ every time they touch the ball.
Another area where Alabama has a distinct advantage involves the kicking game. Leigh Tiffin is the best field-goal kicker in the nation â€“ ranked #1. He is 24 of 27 (88.9%) in the first 10 games. He is ranked 8th in the country in scoring as well, averaging 10 points a game.
Tiffin has performed with incredible consistency this year. For example â€” in his last 5 consecutive SEC games he has hit 15 of 16 field goals for 45 points. His performance to date has been outstanding.
The last area, where Saban keeps an edge over the competition, surfaces as the season wears on. Most teams suffer major attrition due to injuries. However, Sabanâ€™s football teams stay remarkably healthy over the course of the season.
Itâ€™s common knowledge that most injuries on the field occur when players get tired. As we watch them, itâ€™s evident that the Alabama football team is in prime condition. The entire team can push hard for four quarters with ease and they donâ€™t have cramping or nagging injury issues like some others seem to encounter.
The Crimson Tide is also very strong at the point of attack because strength coach Scott Cochran is one of the best in the country.
One thingâ€™s for sure, Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide arenâ€™t going to use â€œsmoke and mirrorsâ€ (or the spread) to try and out-flank an opponent. Everything they do is relatively simple in design and the intent is clear. Alabama will run the ball, and stop its opponents from doing the same â€” then the defense will pad its stats by doing what it does best. Apparently, the formula works.
â€”Shane writes a weekly column for the Call News and the Capstone Report.