Alabama Football: Youthful, healthy defense peaking at the perfect time

Tua Tagovailoa and the offensive unit are the crown jewels of Alabama football. However, defense wins championships. Defensive coordinator Pete Golding calling the game of his life would slow down the vaunted LSU offense.

Eight years later, there’s another”Game of the Century” for top-ranked LSU and number two Alabama football deep in the heart of Tuscaloosa. The game’s enormity brings a mammoth media presence (600 media personnel seeking credentials), ESPN’s College Gameday, SEC Nation, and the Commander in Chief, Donald Trump.

These two teams are not strangers to each other. Considered the class of the SEC West, intimidation will not factor into this colossal matchup for either side.

The offenses are mirror images. Both possess explosive wide receivers who can turn a five-yard slant into a game-breaking 60-yard play. Add in two shifty, downhill runners in Najee Harris and Clyde Edwards Hillaire. Lastly, two steely-eyed, NFL franchise-changing quarterbacks in Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow.

As the offenses are the calling cards this year, the defenses are not up to par.  The elite defenses we grew to know and love whenever LSU and Alabama played is missing. The climax of this game will come down to which defense can stop the other offense from scoring last.

Defensive efficiency

How efficient will LSU’s offense look against the Tide defense?

According to ESPN defensive efficiency, Alabama possesses an 85.9 defensive rating, good for sixth in the nation. The Crimson Tide leads the nation in turnover margin with plus 13. The Tide is top 15 in scoring defense (15.3 points per game) and nineteenth in total defense (307.5 yards per game.

On paper, again, not typical Alabama numbers. On the field, it is evident; the players are getting better.

Alabama Football

TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA – OCTOBER 26: Terrell Lewis #24 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts after pressuring Nick Starkel #17 of the Arkansas Razorbacks in the first ha,lf at Bryant-Denny Stadium o n October 26, 2019 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (P,photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

In their last two games against Tennessee and Arkansas, the defense allowed 231 and 213 total yards, respectively. Terrell Lewis and Anfernee Jennings are affecting the quarterbacks off the edge. Scoring two touchdowns off turnovers in the past two contests, Trevon Diggs is showing the nation he is fully healthy and a difference-maker the Crimson Tide sorely missed in big-time matchups.


Saban spoke of the importance of Diggs and Lewis returning healthy,

“They’re both playing well. They both make plays. They’re playmaker-type guys, and the more guys you have like that, it’s like 3-point shooters in basketball. When you’ve got them, they make a lot of threes. When you have playmaker-type guys, they make a lot of plays, whether it’s batted balls, pressuring the quarterback, knocking balls down, tackling guys, reacting quickly to plays that helps them recover in certain situations, and both these guys have certainly demonstrated ability to do that.”

Time to play their best against the best

Talk of Saban not playing freshman has declined over the years. Losing players to the NFL and injuries are forcing players to play earlier than expected. On defense, five true freshmen are starting.

The last time the entire nation focused on Alabama, they lost 44-16 in the national championship game. Stellar quarterback Trevor Lawrence shredded the defense.

Nobody is expecting the Tide to win because LSU is the sexy pick with a senior quarterback reminiscent of NFL great Peyton Manning, leading the Tigers to victory. Golding needs Alabama defense to regain the “Bama Factor” and show the country Alabama is still the kings of college football, not a vulnerable team living off the good, old days.

Next: Four Bold Predictions for November

Alabama football remains a 6.5 point favorite over the top-ranked LSU Tigers. Hopefully, Vegas considers the Crimson Tide overwhelming favorites over their remaining opponents.

 

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