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Alabama Football: Is the 2012 Crimson Tide the best team of the Saban era?

The Alabama Crimson Tide is the No. 1 team in America, according to polls of both the sports media and college coaches. Their stats, their scores and their ability to control the intangibles has left many to agree on one fact: Alabama has the inside track to make it to the BCS National Championship game for the third time in four years.

During the Mississippi State game, the performance was so impressive, it got me to thinking: just how good is 2012 Alabama compared to 2011 or 2009 Alabama? Is this really the best team Nick Saban has coached at Alabama?

Time to pull out the record book. In the interest of keeping the stats as fair as possible, I’ll be using mostly averages and percentages. Most of this argument is based on numbers.

Offense

2009

2011

2012 (to date)

Total Yards (avg.) 403 429.6 436.4
Total Rushing (avg.) 215.1 214.5 214.4
Total Passing (avg.) 187.9 215.2 222
3rd Down Conversions (%) 39 47 45
4th Down Conversions (%) 59 69 47
Points Scored (avg.) 32.1 34.8 40.6

The one thing that stands out in this comparison of offenses is how balanced the 2011 championship team was under the leadership of AJ McCarron, versus the 2009 team with Greg McElroy and their run-heavy offense. Although that seems like a surprise, let’s not forget that 2009 Heisman winner Mark Ingram was a very dynamic back. He probably was the only reason it tips in the favor of the rushing yards because he made bigger plays that season than Greg McElroy made passing the ball.

Compare this year’s team to the 2011 squad and it seems very balanced. However, the passing yards have increased a bit from last year thus far. McCarron did a lot of growing up beginning with the National Championship game in New Orleans. That’s probably why the numbers favor the passing yardage so far in 2012.

Also, notice the points per game statistic. Alabama is scoring more than either of the national championship season by about a touchdown. If you’ll remember back in 2009, Alabama was struggling mightily on offense through mid-season. I have to admit this team is taking advantage of more opportunities (not just turnovers) and cashing them in for points than either 2009 or 2011.

Defense

2009

2011

2012 (to date)

Total Yards Allowed(avg.) 244.1 183.6 203.1
Total Rushing Allowed (avg.) 78.1 72.2 57.2
Total Passing Allowed (avg.) 166 111.5 145.9
Turnovers/Game (avg.) 2.2 1.5 3
Sacks/Game (avg.) 2.4 2.1 2.2
Points Scored (avg.) 11.7 8.2 8.1

One stat that stands out in this comparison is the turnovers. While the 2009 and 2011 teams both accumulated about two turnovers per game, 2012 is on pace for a three turnovers per game, which would be better than the previous two years.

The Crimson Tide are also allowing far fewer rushing yards to this point in the season, to the tune of around 20 yards per game. While this average is likely to go up after Saturday’s game against an LSU squad that, like Alabama, has a group of tough backs, the Tide is on pace to be an improved rush defense over the previous two championship seasons. Fans worried there would be a drop off in defensive production can rest easy; losing players to the NFL Draft has thus far had no major effect.

Is this team better than their national champion counterparts? The 2012 team is putting up numbers on both sides of the ball just as consistent as the teams before them when they won a championship. What do you think?

Which Alabama team is the best of the Saban era?

  • 2012 (68%, 115 Votes)
  • 2011 (25%, 43 Votes)
  • 2009 (7%, 12 Votes)

Total Voters: 170

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