Although the statistics may suggest otherwise, the 2013 Alabama offense is not the best unit during Nick Saban’s tenure at Tuscaloosa.
Sure, the team is putting up some of its best numbers since Saban took over back in 2007. However, several other factors have helped play a role in this offensive proficiency.
All things considered, the 2013 offense would be lucky to even be mentioned in the same breath as the 2012 unit once the season is up.
Through eight games, the Tide rank No. 13 in scoring (41.3 PPG), No. 36 in total offense (462.8 YPG), No. 51 in passing (252.0 YPG) and No. 27 in rushing (210.7 YPG). The marks for scoring and total offense are currently the best the team has ever produced under Saban.
Here’s how the 2013 offense stacks up with the other six offenses during the Saban era:
|Alabama Offenses Under Saban|
|Year||Scoring||Total Offense||Passing (TDs-INTs)||Rushing (TDs)|
|2007||27.1||373.8||224.5 (19-12)||149.2 (19)|
|2008||30.1||355.8||171.1 (11-9)||184.6 (32)|
|2009||32.1||403.0||187.9 (17-5)||215.1 (31)|
|2010||35.7||444.1||261.2 (24-5)||182.9 (30)|
|2011||34.8||429.6||215.2 (16-8)||214.5 (34)|
|2012||38.7||445.5||218.0 (31-3)||227.5 (37)|
|2013||41.3||462.8||252.0 (18-3)||210.7 (19)|
But sometimes, numbers can be deceiving.
That’s certainly the case with this year’s Alabama offense.
You Call That a Defense?
When trying to debunk highly ranked teams, a common retort from many college football fans is simply: “Well, who have they played?”
The same can be said about the 2013 Tide offense when it comes to the kind of defenses they’ve faced.
Thus far, the team has only played one defense that ranks in the top 40 in total defense. On the other hand, Alabama has played five units that rank No. 85 or worse, including Texas A&M (No. 111) and Georgia State (No. 115).
Over the final four games of the regular season, the team is set to take on the No. 24-, No. 30- and No. 75-ranked defenses along with FCS foe Chattanooga.
That gives the Tide’s average opponent (not including Chattanooga) a total defense ranking of 66.8.
In comparison, the team faced just one defense ranked No. 85 or worse in 14 games last year. At the same time, Alabama took on five defenses ranked in the Top 40, including Michigan (No. 13), LSU (No. 8) and Notre Dame (No. 7). Furthermore, the unit's average opponent total defense ranking was 48.9.
While the 2012 offense put up 41 and 42 points against the Wolverines and Irish respectively, the 2013 offense only managed 35 against Virginia Tech, with just 14 points coming from the offense.
There's no comparison there.
The Difference a Year Makes
The Tide lost five starters on the offensive side of the ball from 2012. The biggest loss was leading rusher Eddie Lacy, now the premier back for the Green Bay Packers of the NFL.
He was a key playmaker in an Alabama rushing attack that ranked No. 16 last year, averaging a little over 227 yards.
Aside from Lacy (204 CAR, 1,322 YDs, 17 TDs), T.J. Yeldon (175 CAR, 1,108 YDs, 12 TDs) and Kenyan Drake (42 CAR, 281 YDs, 5 TDs) helped shoulder the load. Backed by the trio, the Tide topped 220 yards on the ground in nine of 14 games while never being held under the century mark.
This year, the attack has dropped off a bit.
Through eight games, Alabama ranks No. 27 in rushing, averaging a little over 210 yards per game on the ground. Yeldon (115 CAR, 729 YDs, 10 TDs) has done most of the damage, with Drake (63 YDs, 491 YDs, 7 TDs) also putting in work.
However, the duo have only managed to help the Tide top 220 yards in four contests while failing to reach the century mark twice already.
The drop-off in play is also evident at the quarterback position.
On the season, A.J. McCarron has thrown for 1,862 yards, 16 TDs and three interceptions on 69.4 percent passing. He’s also registered a quarterback rating of 166.6.
Through eight games in 2012, McCarron was a little better, throwing for 1,684 yards, 18 touchdowns and zero interceptions on 68.9 percent passing. He also put together a quarterback rating of 182.4.
While McCarron has been both efficient and smart with the ball in his hands this season, he was even more so a year ago. Furthermore, he’s tossed multiple touchdowns in just four games this season compared to six in his first eight last year.
The cast may be mostly the same, but the contributions certainly are not.
Summing It All Up
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the 2013 Alabama offense is bad. Because there’s no doubt the unit is performing at a level we’re not used to seeing from a Saban-coached team.
However, it would be a disservice to last year’s Tide offense to call this year's the “best ever.”
With four games remaining on the schedule, the team certainly has plenty of time to change that opinion. Not to mention Alabama will most likely have a conference title game and a BCS bowl game to add to its resume.
But to judge the offense after a pretty light eight-game schedule just seems to be a little premature.
As of now, the 2012 offense takes the cake as the best unit the Tide has ever had under Saban.
It’s hard to argue with those results.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com
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