With the new season fast approaching, Alabama football fans have many reasons to be excited. There are strong indications the Alabama Crimson Tide defense will be much improved.
Going back to the 2009 season through the 2017 season, Alabama Football finished in the top three of FBS teams for Scoring Defense, seven times. In four of the seven seasons, Alabama was No. 1 in the key statistic. In the down years of the period, the Crimson Tide finished No. 4 (2013) and No. 6 (2014).
Football has changed and gaudy results like the Tide allowing just 8.2 points per game in 2011, may never be seen again. Last season at No. 9 in the FBS, Alabama allowed 18.2 points per game. Also last season, a small improvement in that stat could have turned two ‘last-play’ losses into a 12-0 regular season.
Two other grossly underperforming stats for the 2022 Crimson Tide were penalties and turnover margin. The Crimson Tide was No. 123 in penalty yards per game. Not as bad, but far from good, Alabama was No. 80 among FBS teams in turnover margin.
Alabama Football Success in 2023
During 2023, significant improvements in penalties and turnovers could mean the Alabama football defense only has to be better, rather than asking it to be much better. Considering the schedule, ‘much better’ might be too big of an ask.
Maybe against the Tide opponents with offenses capable of putting up big points, better defense, and a consistent (and time-eating) offense will be enough. That combination could become championship-worthy if three things happen. The first two are the penalties and turnovers.
The third is an effective passing game that doesn’t allow opposing defenses success from loading the box. With a more physical offensive line and loaded talent at running back, Alabama will still need offensive balance, from running and passing. That balance can be achieved without a Bryce Young, once-in-a-generation talent at quarterback.
This brings us to the new biggest worry for Crimson Tide fans. It is dropped passes, a problem that goes back to last season and continued in the spring. How serious is the problem? In a recent radio interview, Aaron Suttles bemoaned the fact that the Crimson Tide is,
"stacked with 4-Star wide receivers that can’t catch the football."
Suttles described the situation as embarrassing and he is not wrong. Nick Saban spins an improvement theme that the wideouts are doing better, but there is reason for doubt. For the Alabama football fans who guard against unbounded optimism, it might be time to move their primary worry from the quarterback to the wide receivers. The balanced offense goal requires consistent pass-catching from receivers.
Note: The Scoring Defense stats in this post were provided by cfbstats.com
Maybe it would help the wideouts if they worked with fewer quarterbacks in practice. It could also be that some of the recent incompletions may have been more the result of strong secondary play rather than actual drops.