Only three weeks into the 2012 season it is becoming ever so clear that the Alabama Crimson Tide are very likely headed to another BCS bowl game, if not the BCS Championship. The team that supposedly lost so much defensive talent that a rebuilding season would be inevitable is playing as if it lost no one. Still, the objective fan would admit that the Tide has not exactly been tested as of yet.
Alabama is currently third in the nation in points allowed, conceding just 4.7 points per game. The Tide is sixth is total defense, eighth in rushing defense, 10th in passing defense and first in turnovers forced with 12. These numbers, although somewhat misleading, are right up there with last year's defense that many believe to have been the best in the nation.
What is misleading about these numbers, along what you have seen with your own eyes in the last three weeks, is that what was originally believed to be a murderer's row of sorts has been a total bust of a schedule.
For starters, the season-opening Cowboy Classic in Dallas had the Tide facing a Michigan team that was without its star running back, Fitzgerald Toussaint. While it is not Alabama's fault that Toussaint was suspended due to offseason shenanigans, this severely limited the Wolverine running game, leaving quarterback Denard Robinson to do pretty much everything on his own. One-dimensional offenses will not have much luck against a Nick Saban and Kirby Smart defense.
Skipping right over the Western Kentucky game, Alabama was expecting to face all it could handle last weekend when they travelled to Arkansas to face the Razorbacks. Once believed to be a BCS title contender back in the spring, the Hogs were without all-everything quarterback Tyler Wilson. Not only did this leave Arkansas offense in dire straits, running back Knile Davis has looked nothing like the All-SEC freshman he was before he missed last season with an injury.
Neither Michigan nor Arkansas really had a legitimate chance of beating Alabama this season in lieu of their missing pieces. The Alabama defense did an amazing job of limiting these teams and creating scoring opportunities for the offense, but one can argue that they should have done this considering the circumstances.
Moving forward, Alabama will most likely skate right through the second non-conference patsy of the season in Florida Atlantic as well as the Ole Miss squad that let Texas hang an embarrassing 66 on them last week in the Grove.
After that, the Tide will start to feel the strain of the SEC slate for the first time. October begins with back-to-back road games with conference newcomer Missouri and rival Tennessee. The Tigers can move the ball in multiple ways with James Franklin at quarterback and a pair of running backs that are averaging over five yards per carry each. The Vols have the talented Tyler Bray heaving the ball all over the field.
Following these two tests is a home date with No. 23 Mississippi State before the highly-anticipated trip to Baton Rouge against a likely undefeated LSU team that will be looking for revenge.
The Alabama defense is looking very formidable indeed this season and there is no reason not to believe that it is as good as the numbers say it is at this point. What is giving opposing coaches even more concern is that with each blowout the Tide lays upon their opponents, the bench gets continually deeper and the green that shows on the "young and inexperienced" defense continues to slowly evolve into a crimson wall of pain.
To put it simply, this defense is very, very good and has yet to tap into the reality of its potential.
But the fact of the matter remains that the Alabama defense has not yet been given a true test. It has not faced quality opponents on consecutive weeks. It has not suffered significant injuries that could gash into its core.
That time will come, though. As the Tide will likely roll with ease into the November death-match with LSU, it will most likely have a few visible bumps, bruises and battle scars in tow. This is when Alabama will face the biggest of the regular-season tests. And only after this bayou brawl will we know for sure how good the Alabama defense really is.