We know without a doubt that the Alabama Crimson Tide are the No. 1 team in the country this season. They rank first in both the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll, and there’s little argument against them being the top team when the first College Football Playoff rankings are unveiled on Nov. 1.
But exactly how good is Nick Saban’s squad, especially compared to other seasons?
The Alabama head coach has done a great job of evolving with the game, something that eventually got Les Miles fired at LSU. In 2013 Saban was still bashing up-tempo offenses, but now he is beating others at their own game. It was controversial to the public, but Saban brought Lane Kiffin in as his offensive coordinator prior to the 2014 season. Fast forward to 2016, and this is very likely the best offense in the country.
We can’t treat Alabama like it was struggling for offense before Kiffin, though. From 2008-2013, the Tide averaged 34.9 points per game. In his two full seasons with the team, Alabama averaged 36.0 PPG under Kiffin. The yards per game also looks pretty similar.
|Year(s)||Total Offensive Yards Per Game|
|2008-2013||422.0 yards per game|
|2014-2015 (with Kiffin as OC)||455.8 yards per game|
Kiffin wasn’t the savior that magically brought offense to Alabama. The changes he has made are showing up now, though, and it’s why the Tide are in the driver’s seat to another national championship. This offense is averaging 45.4 PPG through seven games, and a big reason for that is the rushing totals.
While Alabama averaged 203.3 rushing yards per game in Kiffin’s first two seasons, the Tide are currently averaging 265.71 YPG on the ground. And that’s after the graduation of Derrick Henry, one of the best backs in SEC history. This unit is much more dangerous this year because Kiffin finally has the quarterback that is a perfect fit for his offense.
Blake Sims and Jacob Coker were solid starters, but Hurts gives this offense another dimension. Just look at last Saturday’s game against Tennessee as an example of that. Alabama rushed for 438 yards, which was the most for them in a game since 1986. The remarkable part, though, is that 354 of those yards came on zone-read rushes.
With a mobile quarterback like Hurts, it opens up everything in Alabama’s offense. Like I mentioned before, the rushing totals are up this season for the Tide, and that has allowed for big plays down the field. Alabama is tied for second nationally with 27 plays of 30 or more yards, and it ranks first in the country with 19 yards of 40 yards or more.
The increase in offensive play hasn’t taken away from the defense either. One of the things people need to realize is truly how dominating Alabama’s defense has been since Saban took over as head coach. This team has ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense every year since 2008, with an average of 13.3 points per game allowed over that span.
|Year||National Ranking||PPG Allowed|
This season Alabama is dominating defensively once again. The Tide are giving up just 15.0 PPG, and they have scored a national-best eight defensive touchdowns. This group is loaded with NFL talent again, and that’s a testament to the hard work Saban and his staff have put into recruiting.
The things that were used to build this program up are the same things that are winning games now. Saban’s teams have always been physical up front. They have ran the football and played great defense, and 2016’s team is no different.
I would even argue that this is the most dangerous team Saban has coached at Alabama. The Tide are starting to distance themselves from the rest of the pack, and Saturday’s showdown with No. 6 Texas A&M will further prove that.