Can Alabama Win Games Defensively, a la 2009?

The Bama Lighthouse is pleased to bring to you the computative efforts of the Notorious PAB.  My man Phil has been spending his off season studying quantitative physics, algorithms and the ever expanding bust line of Katie Perry.  As a result, we will be bringing you some extra features this year that highlight some numerics of the game that you might not be aware of.

In this segment, we look at Alabama’s ability to go back to the future by returning to the Bama championship teams of 2009 and 2011.  Nick Saban has stated that in order for the 2015 team to be successful, Alabama will have to revert back to the old school ways of pounding the rock, playing outstanding defense and playing good special teams.  Clearly there are issues with the third part of Saban’s master plan, but what about playing good defense?  Can you win games in 2015 by relying on a solid defense and playing conservative, mistake free football on offense?

The game has changed drastically since 2009 and even 2011.  In 2011, Alabama led the country by giving up a paltry 8 points per game on defense.  Last season, Ole Miss led the nation in scoring defense by giving up 16 points per game.  That’s DOUBLE what the Tide’s defense gave up only three years earlier!  With the hurry up no huddle offenses, the inability to substitute players and the refinement of the passing game in college football, winning games by consistently shutting down offenses doesn’t seem to be a realistic game plan.

The timing of this article couldn’t be any better as Ole Miss and their vaunted hurry up no huddle offense is coming to Tuscaloosa after scoring 73 and 76 points in two games.  Can Alabama’s defense hold the Rebel offense to less than 16 points?  We don’t think so.  And, with the help of the Notorious PAB, we can show you the trends of the Tide…

Overall Avg PPG Change from Avg PPG Change from
Season Record Allowed Rank Previous Season Margin Rank Previous Season
2007 7 – 6 22.0 8 decline by 2.8 ppg 5.1 8 improve by 1.4 ppg
2008 12 – 2 14.3 6 improve by 7.7 15.8 7 improve by 10.7 ppg
2009 14 – 0 11.7 3 improve by 2.6 ppg 20.4 5 improve by 4.6 ppg
2010 10 – 3 13.5 4 decline by 1.8 ppg 22.2 4 improve by 1.8 ppg
2011 12 -1 8.2 1 improve by 5.3 ppg 26.7 2 improve by 4.5 ppg
2012 13- 1 10.9 2 decline by 2.7 ppg 27.8 1 improve by 1.1 ppg
2013 11 – 2 13.9 5 decline by 3.0 ppg 24.2 3 decline by 3.6 ppg
2014 12 – 2 18.4 7 decline by 4.5 ppg 18.5 6 decline by 5.7 ppg
Overall Avg PPG Change from Avg PPG Change from
Season Record Allowed Rank Previous Season Margin Rank Previous Season
2011 12 -1 8.2 1 improve by 5.3 ppg 26.7 2 improve by 4.5 ppg
2012 13- 1 10.9 2 decline by 2.7 ppg 27.8 1 improve by 1.1 ppg
2009 14 – 0 11.7 3 improve by 2.6 ppg 20.4 5 improve by 4.6 ppg
2010 10 – 3 13.5 4 decline by 1.8 ppg 22.2 4 improve by 1.8 ppg
2013 11 – 2 13.9 5 decline by 3.0 ppg 24.2 3 decline by 3.6 ppg
2008 12 – 2 14.3 6 improve by 7.7 15.8 7 improve by 10.7 ppg
2014 12 – 2 18.4 7 decline by 4.5 ppg 18.5 6 decline by 5.7 ppg
2007 7 – 6 22.0 8 decline by 2.8 ppg 5.1 8 improve by 1.4 ppg

Basically, you can see how the Tide’s defense has been giving up more and more points each year, reverting back to the lesser talented 2008 and 2007 groups.  The game is changing.  In today’s game, field goals have become the new version of a punt. Last year, Auburn’s inability to score touchdowns meant they had to settle for field goals.  Even though they rang up a pinball like score of 44 points, Alabama won the Iron Bowl because the Tide scored 55 points.

Welcome to 2015, where teams can score 44 points against a Nick Saban defense and the Tide can somehow still manage to win.  Toto, we aren’t in Kansas and we aren’t in 2011.  Alabama will not be able to play conservatively and win every single game because holding teams to 8 points just isn’t possible in this day and age.  In 2011, one team scored more than 14 points against the Tide and that was Georgia Southern who scored 21 points.  Last year, six teams scored 20 points or more against the Tide.

You can do that math or we can enlist the help of the Notorius PAB but either way you look at it, conservatism is out and scoring is up.  Winning with three yards, a cloud of dust and a strong defense just isn’t going to cut it.  In several games this year, Jake Coker is going to have to find his way and elevate the Bama offense if they want to overcome these high scoring offenses they are going to face.  That test begins tonight.

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