Defense STILL Wins Championships

Stacey MicklesCorrespondent IINovember 5, 2009

ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 05:  The Alabama Crimson Tide defense against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Georgia Dome on September 5, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

What is the old saying, defense wins championships, and offense sells tickets?



In this day and age of gaudy offensive numbers, defense has taken a back seat especially in NCAA football. Gaudy numbers is what attracts voters to certain teams. Take Texas as an example.



Until last week, the Longhorns were third in the country jumped by Alabama a few weeks ago. Now that they have had a better showing against Missouri and Oklahoma State offensively, the Longhorns moved back ahead in all the major polls this past week over an idle Alabama team.



In the end, rankings don’t matter for either Florida, Alabama or Texas as long as they win out, but it just amazes me how Texas jumped Alabama just because they had a better offensive showing the last few weeks.



Since when did playing good defense become such a liability? Even Michael Strahan formally of the New York Giants, who is a defensive player himself, dogged the Crimson Tide offense on Fox Sunday. Does he remember how the Giants got to the Super Bowl against the Patriots a few years ago?



It wasn’t like Eli Manning was pulling a Peyton and throwing for 300 yards a game; it was the Giants defense too. Nowadays, if you don’t have a 300 yard passer, you aren’t considering a “good” offensive team.



This Alabama team reminds me a bit of the 1992 National Championship team of Gene Stallings which offense was a helluva a lot worse offensively then this current team. Stallings teams really were three yards and a cloud of dust.



Stallings relied on two things: David Palmer and the defense. At some point during the game, Palmer would make a big play, usually on a punt return or on offense that would turn a close game like Louisiana Tech, into a blow out (ok not exactly in that game but you get the picture).



I remember a local sports radio host in Birmingham said that the “worst” thing that could have happened to Alabama was winning a national championship by defense. Huh?



Can you recall ONE team that has won a championship without a good defense? Oklahoma had Sam Bradford last year and that high power offense that a lot of people said couldn’t be stopped, but the Florida Gator defense stopped them dead in their tracks.



Oklahoma might have gotten to the national championship game because of their offense, but they didn’t win the championship because of their offense too, but I digress.



The 1992 Miami Hurricanes had a Heisman Trophy winner in Gino Torretta at quarterback, great wide receivers, a good offensive line and a high powered offense that again according to most experts couldn’t be stopped.



But one evil genius figured out how to stop them. Bill Oliver (better known as Brother Oliver around these parts), was the Alabama defensive coordinator at the time and he had a month to prepare for the Hurricanes. The story goes like this: his defense literally shut down the Hurricanes and they had Torretta for lunch.



To this day, I’m pretty convinced that Torretta still doesn’t know what happened to him in that game. He probably still has nightmares about it.



 Alabama and their no offense having team won 34-13, winning their 12th national championship. Greg McElroy reminds me a lot of Jay Barker. Barker was the quarterback on that 92 team. He didn’t make a lot of impressive plays and supposedly didn’t have much of an arm, but like McElroy, he didn’t get you beat either.



But unlike McElroy who has Mark Ingram in his backfield, Barker didn’t have a Heisman candidate to help him out, but he did have steady running back in Derrick Lassic. Ironically, the following year Barker was a finalist for the Heisman. I guess he did have a good arm after all.



I think this nonsense about offenses winning championships started with the Ole Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier. Spurrier started all of this in the 1990’s with his high powered offenses at Florida with Shane Matthews, Danny Wueffel, Rex Grossman and others.



Spurrier changed the game in the SEC. No longer were teams relaying on their defenses to win them games and shut teams down, now it was let’s out score everyone or in Spurrier’s case, let’s run up the score on everyone and try your best to stop us.



Spurrier won one national championship with that offense and several SEC titles. But notice I said he won ONE national championship proving my point, that it stills all starts with defense.



Where would this current Florida team be without a good defense? Tebow would have had come out again and make another powerful speech because they wouldn’t be undefeated right now.



I think at times the polls, fans and especially the media get too caught up in “style points.” If a team doesn’t score 40 points a game or have their quarterback throw for a billion yards in a game, then that team must not be any good, right Mr. Strahan, Mr. Fowler, Mr. Herbstreit, Mr. Corso? All these guys have pretty much lost faith in Alabama in the last few weeks because their offense hasn’t put up gaudy numbers like Florida and Texas; all except Desmond Howard.



Howard has stood steadfast next to the Tide this whole time and his devotion to them is unwavering. While Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, and Kirk Herbistret changed their number one votes from Alabama to Florida, Howard was like “Look, Alabama has the best defense in the country.”



Howard wasn’t impressed by neither Texas nor Florida running over lesser opponents or swayed by style points, he was more impressed that Alabama continues to win despite their offense. Maybe he learned from past experiences that no matter how good your offense is, defense wins ball games.



Ask the Houston Cougars right now if they would trade their high powered offense and their won/loss record for a stellar defense and an undefeated record. Ask Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs where would they be right now if they defense could stop anyone this year where would they be? Or in fact where would Georgia Tech, Florida State or even Miami be right now if any of these teams could stop anyone on defense? They would probably all be vying for a national championship.



Yes kiddies, offense gets the crowd excited and sells tickets, but defense still wins championships.