Alabama Football: Debate over offense or defense winning championships

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The legacy of Alabama football has been defense wins championships. The defensive-oriented Nick Saban learned and changed into embracing championships cannot be won without an explosive offense.

In terms of explosive, offensive output, Alabama football has changed much, going back to the 2014 season. Tua Tagovailoa, when finally unleashed by Nick Saban, demonstrated how explosive Crimson Tide offense can be.

Unfortunately, when at less than full health, Tua-led, Tide offenses were not explosive enough against Clemson and LSU during the last two seasons. In those two losses, Crimson Tide failings were on both sides of the ball. Looking forward to the 2020 season, a Tua-less Tide may not be as explosive as the 2018 and 2019 teams at their offensive best. Being somewhat less explosive offensively might be fine if the Alabama football defense of 2020 is decidedly better than 2018 and 2019.

Before considering the 2020 season, reviewing some statistical history provides perspective. In the hyped-up fervor of current college football offenses, defensive statistics are often ignored. Let’s look at both.

In the 20 seasons from 2000-2019, per-game scoring averages of the Top 10 offensive teams each season have increased only 3.3 percent. Average yards-per-game has gone up 9.8 percent. The defensive performance of the Top 10 offensive teams each season has changed much more. Yards allowed-per-game is up 12.1 percent. Points allowed-per-game is up even more, at an increase of 14.5 percent. The top teams are scoring more points but they are surrendering points at a much higher increase.

Any attempt to explain the differences above will be subjective. The data does seem to make an argument college football offensive improvements may have reached a threshold. Just relying on scoring, Big 12 style, is not enough. Those high-octane offenses in the Big 12, coupled with porous defenses, have been a failure.

Is it possible Alabama football has more potential for regaining championship success through defensive improvement? Let’s look at Tide defensive numbers over the last decade. From 2010-2019, Alabama football defenses gave up the per-game, opponent yardage and scoring averages listed below.

2010 – 286.4 yards and 13 points

2011 – 183.6 yards and 8.2 points

2012 – 250 yards and 10.9 points

2013 – 286.5 yards and 12.5 points

2014 – 328.4 yards and 17.5 points

2015 – 276.3 yards and 14.7 points

2016 – 261.8 yards and 13 points

2017 – 261.4 yards and 11.9 points

2018 – 320.3 yards and 18.1 points

2019 – 324.6 yards and 18.6 points

No one will suggest scoring less is of any value. But having opponents scoring less can be almost as valuable as an explosive offense.

Alabama football stats are from

Looking at 2021 verbal commits and top targets. dark. Next

The end of the 2020 recruiting cycle is less than three weeks away. Stay connected with Bama Hammer for the latest updates.