Alabama Football 2016 – Everyone Else Playing For Second
By: Larry Burton
Florida may or may not have been the SEC’s second best team, but they were a good SEC team with a better than average and national leading defense, yet Alabama simply mauled them after a slow first quarter. They killed Florida 54-16 by 38 points, far beyond the lofty projections set by Las Vegas and they did it by playing a cast of rotating players including fifth string running back who scored his first touchdown at Alabama.
Now it’s time to sit back and honestly evaluate just what this team has accomplished this season, they way they simply steamrolled every team they played this season and ask the question, isn’t everyone else just playing for second place?
Alabama will be at least a two score favorite in their remaining two games this season and certainly the teams that have made it into the College Football Playoffs are no slouches. Alabama really ends, at least for now, any intelligent argument to expand the playoffs because no matter who or how many teams were allowed in the playoffs, they too would lose to Alabama. Yes, for this season at least, Alabama has no real competition as Nick Saban may have put all the pieces together for his finest and most complete team ever.
No other team in Alabama history has combined having the nation’s best defense combined to an offense this good. There have been times when one or the other has been good, but never both this good in the same year.
Let me put this another way, Florida has the nation’s 6th best defense in country in total defense and Alabama just hung 54 points on them after clearly taking their foot off the gas. But that’s not all.
Alabama can beat teams with their special teams: Alabama’s special teams have actually outscored opponents in games.
Alabama’s defense has outscored opponents in games this season.
Alabama can beat you in any number of ways with any group of players on the field at that time. They are the most dangerous team in college football to face in any circumstance. Nick Saban has created such a high efficiency team that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Alabama’s water boys and girls can hydrate ten players before their opponents can even get a water bottle the their first player. This is simply a well oiled football winning organization from top to bottom with few if any weaknesses that can cause it to lose.
While other teams may have one part that shines, they don’t have the whole package like Alabama. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn to the team bus drivers can parallel park those busses in a space formerly occupied by a Yugo. Yes, credit Nick Saban for establishing a team with excellence everywhere you can possibly look.
Everyone knows the stats on the Alabama defense, number one in the nation in almost every aspect that can be measured, certainly the best overall in the nation by a country mile. They just played a top 15 team in the nation and held them to ZERO yards of total rushing. Alabama makes teams one dimensional and forces you try and beat them through the air.
Yes fans know the defensive secondary is beat up and bends, but they eventually break the opponents there too with sacked quarterbacks and interceptions, many of which go all the way the other way. Yes, most folks know and appreciate this Alabama defense.
But folks aren’t looking at the offensive stats and saying “Wow!” but maybe they should.
814 yards for the regular season and a 5.19 yard per carry average would be a stat any running back should be proud of. But that’s not a running back, that’s Alabama’s quarterback, Jalen Hurts and that includes his sack losses in that average. Without the sacks, on plays he is running only, his average jumps up to around 9 yards per carry. And that is certainly something to point to. But Alabama just doesn’t have one player who runs well in a position not normally known for rushing prowess. Receiver ArDarius Stewart averages 6.6 yards per carry on his rushing plays too.
No team has shown any proficiency in trying to stop the Alabama running game once the team gets train rolling. They control both the tempo of the game and the clock in the second half of almost all their games. Saban proves an old saying, “You can’t score if you don’t have the ball” and Alabama has certainly shown the ability to keep it and simply wear down a defense at the game goes on.
Few understand the the method to Alabama’s madness on offense. Thousands of fans scream to Lane Kiffin, “Just run the dang ball”, quoting a line from the football movie “Blindside”. And they will, but only after spending the first half making them run and chase guys on the perimeter, rushing and chasing an elusive quarterback and simply expiring their energy on jet sweeps and more. Then in the second half, when their hands are on their hips sucking air in the huddle in the second half, Saban unleashes the rushing game up the middle ripping out any remaining hope from a gassed defense as they hopelessly grab at Alabama player rushing by.
To make matters worse, they have three running backs capable of being the main guy if they have to be or they just continue to hit a tired defense with great fresh legs the whole second half.
But it’s not just the rushing game that can kill a team. Jalen Hurts over the course of the season is becoming a passing threat that makes him the total package at quarterback. ArDarius Stewart and Calvin Ridley are as dangerous a deep threat as any two wideouts in college football. O.J. Howard is a sure NFL ready tight end getting any of Alabama’s top three running backs the ball in space can turn a three yard completion into a home run ball.
You can’t and you won’t keep Alabama off the scoreboard. 22 Alabama players have accounted for points this season. Yes you read that right, 22 different players have put up points. That’s just insane. What other team does that? I couldn’t find one after some time spent going through all the stats.
This is a team that plays in the best conference in the nation for defense and still averages over 40 points per game for the season and SEC Championship game. What makes this so scary is that this is also the team that only allows 11.8 points per game. That means beating a team by over 27 points a game is their average margin of victory and again, that’s in the SEC.
They are peaking at just the right time. If you need proof, again, let me remind you that Florida is the nation’s number six team in the nation in total defense and Alabama just hung 54 points on them.
Now as we go into the playoffs, Alabama stacks up against the opponents in overall offense and defense going head to head. Against Ohio State, Clemson and Washington, none of those them have a higher difference between the points they score and the points they allow. They also racked up lots of stats against middling teams while Alabama has done it against eleven bowl teams, most of which were in the top 20 when they defeated them.
Now that the committee has chosen it’s rankings, let’s look at the matchups. Washington’s only loss came against USC, a team Alabama has already defeated by a hefty 52-6 margin. Alabama enters that game as a 14 to 16 point favorite, they will win by a much larger score.
Ohio State played against six teams that did not have a winning record and they may be the best of the other teams Alabama will play. They may likely beat a Clemson team which has failed to impress for most of the year and Alabama may well get their chance for revenge from two seasons ago when the Buckeyes kept them from winning yet another title. But against either team, Alabama is a double digit favorite.
If and when Alabama secures this season’s title and if they do so in a convincing manner as expected, it will be clear that the boast of the Alabama fanbase this season was indeed correct: Alabama was in a league of their own this season and everyone else was just playing for second place.
There was no need to expand the playoffs simply to see who else will lose to Alabama, first place was decided at the start of the season.
Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter
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