As college football rounds out the first half of the 2011 regular season, one thing is clear. The Alabama defense is the real deal.
After a respectable 34-0 victory over the Commodores (that was expected to be a wider margin by most fans), Bama's defense can add another gold star to its shutout column. They have two shutouts so far this season and there are a few games left on the schedule that look promising to either tie or best the three shutouts collected in 1992 season.
In 2009, many experts and fans knighted the defense as the one of the best CFB has ever seen and immediately began comparing it to the 1992 version. Leave it to Nick Saban and Kirby Smart to stir the cauldron of debate once again due to their abilities to recruit, prepare and lead such talented players each and every year. Perhaps it's too early to start this topic, but it's always fun to see where a team's bread and butter stands at the halfway point of the season.
Statistically speaking, the 2011 unit is better than both the 2009 and 1992 units in most major categories. I have included up-to-date stats for 2011 to include the Vandy game. *Stats acquired from espn.com, rivals.com, and rolltide.com archives (for 1992 stats).
|Rush YPG Allowed||55.0||77.9||39.8|
|Pass YPG Allowed||139.2||163.8||151.5|
|Total YPG Allowed||194.2||241.7||191.3|
Which season boasts the better Tide defense at this point?
Although they do not mean much at this point, stats are a good starting point and lay the foundation for the debate. They are also, more often than not, a good indication of things to come if they can remain consistent with these numbers.
The 1992 defensive squad produced three NFL first-round draft picks in John Copeland, Eric Curry and George Teague.
The 2009 defense produced two first-rounders: Rolando McClain and Kareem Jackson.
The 2011 bunch has had talks of sending an unheard of amount in the first round. Courtney Upshaw, Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron, Dont'a Hightower, Josh Chapman and Robert Lester are all arguably first round material.
The defining characteristics of this 2011 defense are at a level so high that it seems inhuman.
They are focused and determined to a point that in-game adjustments are natural and automatic. They are relentless and vicious to a point that opponent offenses have signed their own death certificates when they attempt to make them look foolish. They are hungry and vengeful to a point that they are on a mission to right all the wrongs from last season that kept them from hoisting the crystal ball.
This defense holds the potential to become the best in Crimson Tide history. How they choose to use that potential will determine their future status. Will they collapse and fizzle out in the second half of the season? Will they lose in a heartbreaker and come up just short? Or will they be the standard measure of comparison when this discussion comes to light again in future seasons?
My money is on the latter.