This past Saturday was yet another test for the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide as they hosted a hungry and explosive team in the #12 Ole Miss Rebels. All week long, Nick Saban and his Alabama team heard the potential upset from Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss. Alabama dominated Ole Miss 42-21, but the score was not as convincing as what the Tide was doing on the field. They didn’t have to be more explosive to beat the Rebels, they were playing smarter. This is an Alabama offense that is proving it can be explosive but still be more efficient in exposing weaknesses on the other team. Defensively, the Crimson Tide is back to playing at a high level of efficiency. Alabama looks even better on offense and defense this season than in previous championship seasons.
Alabama Offense and Defense are More Strategic in 2021
The offense of Alabama wins by playing chess
In the past couple of seasons when Steve Sarkisian was offensive coordinator, Alabama’s offense was been highly explosive. Last season, the offense of Alabama ranked second in the nation in points per game (48.5), fourth in total yards per game (541.8), and third in first downs per game (28.1). This season under the direction of first-year offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, Alabama wins matchups on the field easily. The Crimson Tide averages 45.6 points per game (third in the nation), 462.6 total yards per game (26th in the nation), and 23.8 first down per game (26th in the nation) this season. This offense is more efficient in exploiting weaknesses of the opposing defense.
In the game against Ole Miss, everyone outside of Alabama’s program expected the team to be explosive passing the ball. Alabama knew Ole Miss’ talented secondary would be up for the task against the deep passing game. Instead, Alabama attacked the defense of Ole Miss through several series of play-action passes and runs to the outside.
Alabama’s offense ranks second in the nation in offensive efficiency at 92.4, despite being 26th in the nation in total yards per game. Against opposing defenses with more aggressive front-seven, but weaker secondaries like Florida and Miami, Bryce Young has at least 35 passing attempts. Through the first five starts at Alabama, Young has thrown for more yards (1,307) than Tua Tagovailoa (1,173) and Jalen Hurts (1,144) and a higher completion percentage (72%) than Mac Jones (71%) or Hurts (61%). Young, however, has passed for more touchdowns (17) than either of the previous three quarterbacks for Alabama.
The defense for Alabama is back to a great level
No player or coach got more criticism last year than defensive coordinator Pete Golding. This season, the defense for Alabama has been playing much more efficiently. Alabama’s defense ranks 29th in points allowed per game (18.2) and 14th in total yards allowed per game (285.2). The unit is able to shut down the strengths of the opposing offense. In the Miami game, Alabama’s front-seven stifled the Hurricane’s talented running backs and limited their dual-threat quarterback. The Hurricanes only accounted for 266 total yards, with 87 of those yards rushing. Then, Alabama’s defense encountered a challenge after suppressing the passing game of the Florida Gators. The defense only allowed 195 passing yards from Emory Jones, but it was the speed of the Gators’ basic run plays that the Tide didn’t expect.
Last Saturday, Ole Miss looked to use this tactic to account for 647 total yards like last year. However, Alabama saved its best performance this season defensively against Ole Miss’ top-scoring and top-total offense. The defense held Ole Miss to 291 total yards and only allowed 5-of-14 on third-down conversions.
Up next the defense will focus its attention now on a severely inefficient Texas A&M offense. One that hasn’t found its rhythm. The Aggies offense ranks 101st in the nation in points per game (23.4) and 83rd in total yards per game (376.6). Alabama will need to crowd the line of scrimmage as it needs to force Texas A&M to beat them with its weak passing offense.