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Alabama-LSU: Which Program Has the Better Defense?

Walter KirkwoodAnalyst INovember 2, 2010

Marcel Dareus leads the Tide Defense
Marcel Dareus leads the Tide DefenseKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

For years the SEC was known proudly as the league of defense, but thus far in 2010, it's the offenses that have been flexing the muscles.

Only South Carolina, LSU and Alabama have shown any resemblance to SEC defenses of years gone by.  Two of those will be meeting on Saturday when the Alabama Crimson Tide takes on the LSU Tigers.  Which team has the better defense?

I compared the two defenses on five key statistical measurements.

Rushing Yards Allowed

LSU has allowed 1,294 to Alabama's 1,045.  This looks good for Bama except that LSU has absorbed 51 more attempts, thus their average is 3.5 yards to Alabama's 3.8.

Unfortunately for Alabama, Mount Cody has left the building, along with Brandon Deaderick and Lorenzo Washington.  

Marcel Dareus plays at a level similar to last year, but the rest of the line unfortunately isn't quite as good.  To make matters worse for the Tide, LSU has already faced Cam Newton, the league's most prolific rusher.

Winner - LSU

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Passing Yards Allowed

Alabama has allowed 228 more yards passing but has been thrown at 54 more times.   Both have allowed six touchdowns.   The yards per attempt are 5.52 for Alabama and 5.86 for LSU. 

But where Alabama really takes the category is its 15 interceptions to LSU's eight.   This is somewhat surprising considering Alabama employs a collection of freshmen, sophomores, journeymen and walk-ons to man its secondary. 

If there is a better secondary coach in America than Nick Saban, I've yet to see him.

Winner - Alabama

Red-zone Touchdowns

LSU has allowed touchdowns on 12 of 20 attempts for a rather unhealthy 60%.   Alabama is still one of the best in the nation at 7 out of 23 attempts for 30%. 

This, more than anything else, is why Alabama is still in the hunt for a national championship.

Winner - Alabama

Sacks

LSU has 22 sacks for a loss of 181 yards.  Alabama has only 10 for a loss of 57 yards.   Pressure from the linemen has been a thorn in Alabama's side since Saban arrived.  

Some of it relates to a lack of blitzing in a year in which Alabama's secondary is less than experienced. 

Winner - LSU

Third-Down Conversions

LSU has allowed 37 of 114 attempts for a 32% completion rate.  Alabama has allowed  43 of 113 attempts for a rate of 38%.  

The opposite of the red-zone conversion rate, Alabama struggles to get off the field on third down.  The resulting shift in field position and time of possession has hampered the offensive side of the ball all year.

Winner - LSU

LSU leads in three categories, Alabama leads in two.

LSU leads significantly in sacks and has marginal leads in third-down conversions and rushing.

Alabama has a significant lead in red-zone touchdowns and a marginal lead in passing yards.

This match is a close one but all other things being equal at this time I have to send the swing vote to the LSU Tigers.  

The difference maker for them is going to be sacks.   It has been a glaring, bleeding,  pus-filled sore on an otherwise excellent Alabama defense that the defensive line does not get off blocks, they don't pressure the passer and rarely penetrate the backfield. 

This may eventually cost the Tide a chance at a championship.  

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