How good has the Alabama defense been of late?
Maybe even historically good.
It didn’t seem like this was going to be the case way back on Sept. 14. That’s when Johnny Manziel shredded the Tide for 562 yards of total offense while laying 42 points on the scoreboard in ‘Bama’s 49-42 win in College Station.
But since then, Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has his talented troops playing at a very high level.
Since giving up those 42 points against the Aggies, Alabama has allowed just 26 points over the past six games, with shutouts of Mississippi and Arkansas to its credit. The Tide hasn’t allowed a single point in the first half during that stretch, which means a good chunk of the points are coming late in the game, with reserves on the field.
Alabama is allowing just 9.8 points per contest, which leads the nation. Take away that blip against A&M and the Tide is allowing 5.1 points per game and six total touchdowns on the season.
Could this be the best Alabama defense of the Nick Saban era? The 2011 unit allowed just 8.2 yards per contest, but SEC offenses were considerably less potent a couple years ago. Only two SEC teams that year averaged over 35 points per game and one of them — LSU — scored nine points against the Tide in two head-to-head meetings. But six teams are doing so in 2013 and that makes what Alabama is doing even more impressive.
There’s no secret to why this is happening. The Tide have been recruiting elite defensive talent at an alarming rate. And Saban and Smart are two of the best defensive coaches in the game. This is certainly one of the more impressive defensive runs of the modern era, as the Tide has allowed 14 points or less for six-straight seasons.
Indeed, if Johnny Football had never graced the SEC with his presence, we’d probably be talking about this Alabama defense as a historic unit.
Instead, it will just have to be content with being the best in the country in 2013.
Jim Harbaugh has been known for using a bit of hyperbole from time to time but it sounds as though he was really, really, really upset at a call in the final few minutes of No. 2 Michigan’s 41-8 win over Illinois on Saturday.
Wolverines quarterback John O’Korn had completed a third-and-nine pass to Drake Harris that officials had marked short of the first down by nearly two yards. Harbaugh quickly challenged the spot but Big Ten replay officials upheld the call to force a fourth down decision that was a little longer than it should have been according to the coach.
“I’ve never seen a worse call in the game of football,” Harbaugh said at his Monday press conference. “My understanding of the rules and the review system is it’s the spot, it’s to get the correct spot.”
Michigan won the game in blowout fashion of course and the call was irrelevant to the final score as the Wolverines got the first down on the next play and then kneeled down to end the game. But the comments and decision to challenge a call over a few feet does show the level to which Harbaugh will compete on the field.
Apparently that is something that is now well-known by Big Ten officials too.
Clemson running back Wayne Gallman has been dealing with the aftereffects of a concussion that knocked him out of the team’s win over N.C. State.
He seemed pretty clear on what he thought about the hit that caused that concussion however, telling the Associated Press that the play was “dirty.”
“You saw him lead with his head,” Gallman said of Wolfpack defensive back Dravious Wright. “He came with his head.
“I wanted somebody to hurt him that was in the game if they could.”
Gallman was knocked out on the play and said he didn’t recall anything until a few minutes later. Clemson apparently sent video of the hit to the ACC office, but was told that it was a legal play (no flag was thrown on it either).
The tailback was held out of some of the Tigers practices last week as they rested on their bye but added that he will be good to go for this week’s matchup with Florida State in a game that could seal the ACC Atlantic division for Clemson with a win.
Gallman, a redshirt junior, is expected by many to enter the NFL Draft after the season so it means he likely won’t be facing N.C. State again on the field so it looks like he’ll have to take his frustration about the play out on the Seminoles on Saturday.
Oklahoma’s defense has not had the best of weeks.
The Sooners gave up 59 points on Saturday to Texas Tech and allowed quarterback Patrick Mahomes to set an FBS record for total offense as he did just about whatever he wanted in the passing game. While the team ultimately won the game, giving up that many points and yards has naturally led to some questions about Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator.
Head coach Bob Stoops isn’t having any of that however, and it’s not just because the coordinator in question is his brother Mike Stoops.
“It’s all of us, too. It isn’t just my brother and I. It’s also coach [Kerry] Cooks, coach [Calvin] Thibodeaux, coach [Tim] Kish, everybody in there,” Stoops said Monday, according to the Associated Press. “It’s the same coordinator that also led the league in every defensive category a year ago, and made it to the final four. We’re not running a new defense. He didn’t bring in something different. It’s the same defense. If it’s worked before, it’ll work again, and I’ve got confidence in it. And I’m also part of what we’re doing.”
Oklahoma is ranked 16th in the country and remain one of the favorites to win the Big 12 this season but it’s clear that they won’t be doing that if things don’t improve on the defensive side of the ball. The Sooners are allowing over 40 points per game in conference play and are last in the league in pass defense.
Luckily there is a cure for some those defensive ills coming up this week as Oklahoma hosts 1-6 Kansas for homecoming. It’s probably safe in saying the defense will be able to bounce back against the lowly Jayhawks but if they struggle again, you can bet those calls for Stoops to make some changes on his coaching staff will grow even louder.
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen has missed the team’s last two games dealing with a host of injuries but it turns out that one might be more serious than was initially indicated.
Rosen was hurt in two separate incidents in the Bruins’ loss at Arizona State three weeks ago. While he appears to have recovered from a minor lower leg injury, he has yet to play for the team in losses to Washington State and Utah as the result of his shoulder injury.
Backup Mike Fafaul has taken over and thrown for nearly 800 yards in Rosen’s absence but it’s clear that the team needs their star quarterback back if they want to end their current three-game losing streak and get a chance to make a bowl game.
If there’s one bit of good news it’s that the signal-caller is getting some extra time to rest up as UCLA is on their bye this week before traveling to Colorado next Thursday.