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Mitchell: Bama BCS Title Doubts

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Dec 4, 2012


The more games Alabama plays against tougher competition, the more their flaws are readily apparent... And they appear to play right into Notre Dame's hands

By Russ Mitchell
Follow me @russmitchellcfb

We’ll have more time to break down the Notre Dame vs. Alabama Discover BCS Championship Game in its entirety in the weeks to come, but after watching the SEC Championship game for the third time, I am beginning to have doubts about the “inevitability” of Bama’s next BCS title.

Yes, I loudly proclaimed the SEC Championship game the de facto national title, and given the past six years it's not a hard argument to make. Moreover, there are many intangibles to this match-up with the Irish that appear to favor the Capstone: championship game experience, preseason player expectations, depth and coaching (not withstanding Nick Saban’s blunders in the SECCG).

However, specifically as it relates to Alabama’s 2012 production, and as the Tide finished more challenging games, it’s clear this isn’t your Daddy’s Bama team…at least not in terms of the past half decade.

OFFENSE

Under the Saban regime, Alabama has done a lot of things right on offense. But one thing the Tide clearly does better than most is run the ball. Particularly "ground and pound". A physical, grinding style of running between the tackles designed to steal a defense’s soul along the way to winning ballgames.

That’s not happening in 2012.

Against LSU, Alabama was unable to get its running game established – not to the extent the Tide are accustomed. As a result they struggled mightily, and all things being equal were fortunate to escape Baton Rouge with a win.

Against TAMU, Bama had even more trouble establishing its ground game, averaging just 122 net yards – roughly half of its season average. The Tide lost, at home.

Against Georgia on Saturday, Alabama put up a staggering 350 net rushing yards against a Dawg defense ranked 12 in the conference in run D…yet still barely won the game.

It clear this 2012 Alabama team must get a strong effort from its rushing attack to beat its toughest competition. Which begets the question, how well will it do against a Notre Dame front seven which outside of LSU might be the toughest Bama will face all season?

DEFENSE

Defensively, against teams that matter, this is the weakest Bama squad since 2007. Don’t take our word for it, just do the math.

As we highlighted on Sunday, Bama has played three top ten teams in 2012 (LSU, TAMU & UGA) and in those games has allowed 1,247 total yards. That’s more than double what last year’s defense allowed against LSU, Arkansas and LSU (557). In 2009, Bama’s 14-0 team and excellent defense allowed just 766 total yards to its three toughest opponents (Va Tech, Florida and Texas).

Another recent barometer as to the effectiveness of Alabama’s defense has been the rate at which it takes the ball from its opponents. On the surface, the Tide once again appear stout in this category, ranked 12 in the nation with 28 takeaways and only 15 turnovers (12 fumbles).

However, Bama didn’t get a single takeaway versus either LSU or TAMU, while surrendering the ball five times, and against UGA the Tide again lost the turnover battle, 1-2.

That’s just one takeaway against its three top-shelf opponents. Hardly the Bama defense we’ve come to respect in years past.

WHAT COMES NEXT?

We’ll reserve our final pregame analysis for the weeks to come. Certainly the absurd six week break our sport requires between the culmination of its regular season and its championship game will benefit Alabama’s ailing DTs, not unlike LSU in 2007.

Perhaps a 100% healthy Jesse Williams and Brandon Ivory will enable Alabama’s defense to control games. Bama's faithful certainly hope so.

However, the real question is whether the Tide's ground game will be able to advance the ball sufficiently against a Notre Dame run defense ranked fourth in the nation? I am starting to have doubts...


Russ Mitchell is the lead SEC Columnist for CFN. Follow him @russmitchellcfb



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