Two different teams, two unbeaten records.
But how both teams came to finish 12-0 at the end of the season are two very different stories.
In 2008 we found the Tide jumping ahead early in the game and then just trying to outlast the other team. In 2009 we found the Tide more balanced and better conditioned.
They simply made the other team quit.
Alabama Scoring 2008
The 2008 Crimson Tide outscored their opponents 379-138. Alabama put up 241 more combined points than all of the other teams they played. Alabama averaged 31.5 points a game, compared to their oppontents' 11.5
Those stats are impressive, but don't do justice to the explanation as to how Alabama really finished the season undefeated in '08. Their modus operandi of putting up a 12 win season made for some real nail biters.
Alabama led the first quarter of every game in '08, outscoring the other teams 123-20. The Tide scored in the first quarter every single game, scoring double digits in their first six games.
The Tide averaged 10.25 points in first quarter play, compared to their opponent's 1.66.
Alabama didn't let up much in the second quarter either, outscoring the other teams 111-27. That averages out to 9.25 points per second quarter for Bama. The losing team only averaged 2.25.
Alabama experienced a slight drop-off in scoring during the third quarter, while the opposition began gaining ground. The Tide still outscored the losing teams 91-31, averaging 7.5 points to their 2.5. That was just enough to give some teams hope for a win (UGA and UK come to mind).
The fourth quarter is where Alabama saw their biggest drop-off in production. Alabama was actually outscored in the fourth quarter 54 - 60. The Tide averaged less than a touchdown, or 4.5 points vs. 5.0 for the opposing team.
In six games Alabama failed to reach the end-zone in the fourth quarter. They were scoreless in four of those fourth quarter games and only scored once in all but two.
They were just plain tired and had to rely on their defense, who were also wore out, to assure the win on several occasions.
Alabama Scoring 2009
The 2009 Crimson Tide outscored their opponents 383-140. In '09 Alabama put up 243 more points than the 12 losing teams they faced.
Alabama averaged 31.9 points per game as opposed to the 11.6 combined average of the rest of the field. Almost identical stats as the '08 team, but the '09 team took an entirely different route to get there.
Whereas the '08 team scored and led the first quarter every game, the '09 Crimson Tide had four scoreless first quarters and seven games where they couldn't even score a touchdown.
But at the end of the season Alabama still outscored their opponents 77-34. That's translates into 6.4 points per first quarter as opposed to 2.8.
The second quarter is where the '09 "Make 'em quit" mentality started kicking in. Alabama scored 128 points in this quarter, averaging 10.6. Opposing teams were able to put up a paltry 33 combined points for an average of 2.75 points.
The Tide's offense scored every game in the second quarter. They scored touchdowns in nine of those games and scored double digits in eight.
Alabama's offense keeping the field began to take its toll on the defenses before the second half ever came into play.
Alabama outscored everybody else 73-39 in the third quarter, almost mirroring their first quarter efforts with a 6.0 average against a 3.25 average.
By this time most or the opposing teams had it figured out that they were outmatched. By the end of the third all but couple had already "quit."
Alabama rolled over their opponents in the fourth quarter, outscoring them 105-24. That's 8.75 points per fourth quarter to 2.0 points.
Does anybody doubt that by the fourth quarter most of Alabama's opponents had thrown in the towel? When the last 15 minutes of the game started, not only couldn't the losing teams keep Bama from scoring, they couldn't score themselves.
That's conditioning —a big part of Alabama's success last season. Especially on the offensive side of the ball. After all, they were on the field longer than the defense and increased production in the 4th when other teams were longing for the locker-room.
But it's defenses that win championships, which is a big reason Alabama won one in '09, as opposed to '08.
Now we'll take a look at some interesting stats from a defensive perspective between the '08 and the '09 Crimson Tide.
Alabama Defense 2008
In 2008 Alabama had a great defense. For three quarters. Fortunately they had an offense that could strike quickly in the first half. Jumping out to an early lead was Alabama's meal ticket to an undefeated season that year.
Alabama's 2008 defense allowed only 20 points in the first quarter of every game they played combined.
Say what? That's less points per first quarter than a safety.
Seventy-five percent of Alabama's opponents failed to score in the opening quarter, including the first six. That's nine teams in total.
Out of the three remaining, two only scored three apiece. LSU was the only team to score a touchdown against Alabama and they did it twice. That single game accounted for almost 60 percent of the 20 points scored on Alabama in the first fifteen minutes of play.
After the first quarter, opposing teams improved, but not by much. Combined they scored 27 points, or 2.25 points per second quarter. Seven teams failed to score, two had field goals, and the remaining two had a touchdown apiece.
Amazingly, no team scored in both opening quarters and four teams were held scoreless for the entire half.
Again, in the third quarter, opposing offenses are a little more productive. With a combined total of 31 points they were now able to boast a 2.5 average points in the quarter. The trend, mild as it is, points to a tiring Alabama defense.
In the fourth quarter is where Alabama struggled, giving up 60 points to twelve teams. That averages to 5 points per quarter.
Wow, when you put it that way, lots of teams would love that stat.
But not Alabama.
Fourth quarter woes were the only real negative in a wonderful and incredible season. And it came back to haunt them in the most important game of the year.
Alabama couln't fix their fourth quarter problems during the season and couldn't fix them before the SEC Championship. After the third quarter of the SEC Championship Game Alabama had the lead 20-17.
But Florida scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and won 31-20. Alabama was unable to stop the Gators in the fourth quarter and unable to answer them.
Alabama Defense 2009
In 2009 the Crimson Tide knew what they had to do: Finish.
The loss to Florida and a poor showing in the Sugar Bowl were probably the biggest motivating factors of the '09 season.
The Alabama defense allowed 34 total point in 12 first quarters. Fourteen of those were in the last game of the season against Auburn. That's 2.8 points per quarter. Before the Iron Bowl Alabama averaged only 1.8 points per quarter. Eight teams were held scoreless.
Alabama's defense did about the same in the second quarter allowing only 33 points, or 2.75 points per quarter. Five teams were held without a score in the first half. Only Virginia Tech scored twice with 10 points.
Thirty-nine total points were scored against Alabama in the third quarter, more than any other. That averages to 3.25 points per. Half the teams were held scoreless and nobody scored more than once.
This is the cool part; in the fourth quarter Alabama only allowed 24 total points all season long. All 12 of Alabama's opponents could only average 2.0 points in the final quarter of the game.
Eight teams failed to score anything. Three teams managed a touchdown. Mississippi State scored three points, their only points in the entire game.
Alabama's physical style and seemingly tireless effort was at its best against opposing offenses late in the game when it counted. While they stood with hands on hips, eyes on the clock, Alabama's defense was still dialing it up a notch.
2009 SEC Championship
Oh what a difference a year makes.
Alabama entered the Georgia Dome as the decided underdog. At least to the experts. I don't think one single Bama fan was surprised at the outcome.
Four field goals were kicked in the first quarter, three by Alabama. In the second quarter both teams scored a touchdown and a field goal. Halftime found Alabama leading 19-13.
Alabama held UF scoreless in the third quarter. Then up went the four fingers. It was time to finish,
The Tide outscored the Gators 13-0 in the second half and won 32-13.
Both the '08 and the '09 teams finished 12-0. Both averaged 31 points per game. Both held their opponents to an average of 11 points per game.
The only difference between the two was the fourth quarter.
That difference cost Alabama an SEC Championship in 2008. But it won one for the 2009 Alabama Crimson Tide.
I can't wait to see what 2010 brings.