Alabama Football: Just how good is the Vandy Defense?

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 09: Andrew Rector /

Alabama football is the perennial ‘Big Dog’ among FBS defenses. So far in 2017, FBS stats show Vandy’s defense is stronger than the Crimson Tide.

Alabama football fans generally love CFB statistics, particularly defensive numbers. Season after season under Nick Saban, the Tide’s defensive stats lead the nation in most categories. So far in 2017, that is not the case. While the Alabama football defense lags, other SEC schools are excelling, especially Vanderbilt.

Before taking a deep dive into the national defensive stats, a word of caution from the past.

Mark Twain gets most of the credit for the line below, though Twain gave attribution to the 19th century British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli. British historians doubt Disraeli was the first to say it, but even without a clear source, the quote carries value today.

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

Derek Mason has done a superb job at Vanderbilt. The former Stanford defensive coordinator has built a strong defense and been patient with inconsistent offense until this season. With the loss of linebacker Zack Cunningham to the NFL, some thought the Dores would weaken on defense this season. So far, it appears Vandy’s defense has become stronger.

Mason must find some tactic to minimize the damage Jalen Hurts can do on the ground. Most experts expect Mason to use a ‘spy’ defender who tracks Jalen on every play. How Brian Daboll counters that approach will be interesting.

Comparing the Vandy defense and the Alabama football defense

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With only a three-game sample for both teams, stats can easily mislead. A quick look at the six games indicated Alabama football has played more potent offenses. FSU with Deondre Francois was certainly stronger than Kansas State. Colorado State and Fresno State are also far superior offenses than MTSU and Alabama A&M (AAMU).

MTSU is No. 124 in the FBS in Total Offense. AAMU is No. 123 (last) in the FCS. AAMU has scored seven points in three games against FBS teams. AAMU failed to score against South Alabama who gave up 47 points to Ole Miss and 44 points to Oklahoma State.

Bottom line, Vandy is good on defense but its current national stats are inflated by weak opposition. It is still worthwhile to review the FBS stats for the Dores and Alabama football. All the stats are provided by the NCAA.

Total Defense

Vanderbilt is No.1 (198.3 yards-per-game) – Alabama is No. 37 (304.3 years-per-game)

Other schools of interest: Auburn, No. 2; Mississippi State, No. 3; Clemson, No. 8; Georgia, No. 16; LSU and Arkansas, No. 17; Florida State, No. 19

Rushing Defense

Vanderbilt is No. 28 (103 yards-per-game) – Alabama is No. 8 (80.3 yards-per-game)

Others: Kentucky, No. 3; Texas A&M, No. 6; Auburn, No. 12; Clemson, No. 16; Mississippi State, No. 27

Passing Yards Allowed

Vanderbilt is No. 1 (95.3 yards-per-game) – Alabama is No. 64 (224.3 yards per game)

Others: Mississippi State, No. 6; Auburn, No. 9; Arkansas, No. 13; Clemson, No. 14; Tennessee, No. 16; LSU, No. 24; Ole Miss, No. 42

Passing Efficiency Defense

Vanderbilt is No. 3 (66.66 rating) – Alabama is No. 43 (112.26 rating)

Others: Mississippi State, No. 8; Arkansas, No. 19; LSU, No. 25; Auburn, No. 26; Ole Miss, No. 28; Florida, No. 33; Clemson, No. 34

Scoring Defense

Vanderbilt is No. 1 (4.3 points-per-game) – Alabama is No. 16 (13.3 points-per-game)

Others: Mississippi State, No. 6; Clemson, No. 8; Auburn, No. 11

Third Down Conversion Defense

Vanderbilt is No. 4 (14.3 percent) – Alabama is No. 83 (41.5 percent)

Others: Mississippi State, No. 10; Clemson, No. 31; Texas A&M, No. 32; Georgia, No. 35; Auburn, No. 36; Ole Miss, No. 38; LSU, No. 42

Red Zone Defense (field goals or touchdowns)

Vanderbilt is No. 2 (25 percent) – Alabama is No. 35 (75%)

Others: Florida, No. 9; Mississippi State, No. 21; Auburn and Kentucky, No. 35

Based on the stats alone, Vandy would be favored. The Dores are not favored, of course. The Wednesday line from has the Tide favored by 18.5 points.

Next: When Nick Talks, It Makes Sense to Listen

Don’t miss the Bama Hammer Alabama vs. Vandy staff predictions later this week. Whether it is true or not, we claim to be the only group in the nation that has been 100 percent correct in the 2017 CFB season.