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Alabama’s defense adjusts and improves ahead of Ohio in the CFP Championship game

Back in October, Alabama coach Nick Saban finally waved the white flag.

The longtime connoisseur of protection had seen enough. The idea that “defense wins championships,” to Saban’s horror, is a relic of college football’s past.

“Before, good defense beat good attack,” Saban said before defeating Tennessee. “Good defense no longer beats good offense.”

And although the six-time national champion reluctantly embraced this reality – and adapted his team to an offensive jungleout – Crimson Tide is still right plays a good defense.

And on Monday night at the National Football Championship, presented by AT&T, the Alabama defense will take its toughest test of the season from the powerful state of Ohio.

Justin Fields. Chris Olave. Trey̵

7;s sermon. Gareth Wilson.

“They have a lot of weapons,” said Alabama defensive coordinator Pete Golding. “It is [not] game [where] you come in and say, “Hey, I just stopped this guy, we’re going to win the game.” This is not so. “

How well Alabama slows Bucky will play a key role in Monday’s result.

This is not the signature of Nick Saban’s defense.

The dramatic offensive change at the college engulfed Alabama as well. Take, for example, Saban’s 2011 BCB National Championship.

This season – which included a 9-6 overtime loss to LSU in Game of the Century – Alabama’s top-ranked defense was stifling. The Crimson Tide allowed a minimum of 178.7 yards per game for Power 5 conference opponents, 3.3 yards per game and 7.8 points per game.

This season, Alabama gave up almost twice the distance (353.2 yards per game), five yards per game and 19 points per game. In eight of its 12 games this season, Crimson Tide lost more yards than the 2011 average in half.

This is less of an accusation of Bama’s defensive performance and more indicative of how the game has changed – for everyone.

“It’s really not about how many yards you’re giving up,” Ohio coach Ryan Day said Thursday.

“It’s all about stopping. … You can let them drive the entire length of the field, but if they kick goals on the field or get turns on the road, good things will happen.”

The numbers illustrate the insulting blow of the sport. Since 2011, the national average for yards per game against Power 5 teams has risen from 376.3 yards to 403.5 in 2020. Play yards have increased from 5.4 to 5.7, and the result has increased by more than two points – from 26 points per game to 28.9.

“I don’t think there is any question about the fact that college football has changed dramatically in the last 10, 12 years,” Saban said this week.

“I think the emergence of spread, RPO, blocking down when the passes are caught behind the line of scrimmage, all these things have drastically changed the style of play offensively and it affects every part of the game.

“You have to defend the way you choose players to play certain positions, because the game is a much more perimeter game than before, and what your scheme is to defend these changes is quite dramatic.”

Although Tide’s defense is now more forgiving than it was then, it is still at the top of the sport. It is fifth at the national level in permitted points (19) and permitted game yards (5) and 17th at the national level in permitted game yards (353.2).

In other words, despite the total volume, it usually gets the necessary stops.

Although good, Alabama’s defense has been disappointed at times this season. Two games stand out: October 10 against Ole Miss and a SEC championship match against Florida.

The 48 points the Rebels have scored are tied to Auburn for the most teams scored by Alabama during the Saban era. Ole Miss’s 647 yards were the most Crimson Tide ever allowed. Saban and backballer Dylan Moses voiced their views tonight on whether the rebels’ coach and Saban’s former assistant Lane Kifin knew their signals, something Kifin later denied.

This week, Saban and Golding attributed the struggles to countless factors.

“They had 250 yards after contact,” Golding said. “It’s hard to win at every level when you do. … I think we also had 28 mental errors in this game.”

Saban said, quoting four of the five new starters in high school and three freshmen in defense: “The knowledge and experience we had was probably not needed to be able to make adjustments and adjustments in the game, as well as in preparation.”

Florida’s 46-point burst in the SEC title game was the second highest that Saban’s Alabama defense allowed. Golding lamented Alabama’s third performance (Gators scored 8 of 11 chances) there and stressed that Tide should be better against Ohio – a violation that is more explosive than the two teams Alabama is fighting.

Mental errors should be “small in number,” seizures should be healthy, and the tide should “cope in space,” Golding said.

“You can’t give these guys plays like that,” Golding told Bucky. “They’re going to do enough contested plays because they have a lot of really good players.”

For all the manual distortions for these performances, Alabama’s defense over the past two months has been good. Tide has allowed 17 points or less, under 300 yards to go and less than five yards per game in seven of their last eight games. In the college football semifinals against Notre Dame, Alabama conceded just 14 points and 4.7 yards per game, though it wasn’t as good as Golding would have liked in a third drop (8 of 16).

The team’s attributes added experience to the game for improvement.

“We’ve learned from experience what we need to do,” said Patrick Surtein II. “We improved every week, flying to the ball, making adjustments and learning from past games where we fought.”

Ohio Offensive Coordinator Kevin Wilson agreed.

“Ole Miss’s game was early and … I think Alabama improved because they managed to play [more games]”, he said.” They are a great defense with talent, length. They will make it incredibly challenging. “

Ohio will be the most difficult challenge in Alabama to date.

The Buckies are Alabama’s highest-scoring team (43.4 points per game) and have raced for more than 200 yards in each of their seven games this season, tied for the longest active FBS streak.

Recently, Sermon has driven the running game, averaging 212 yards and 9.1 yards of wear in Buckeyes’ last three races.

Fields, a true quarterback with a double threat – the guy who has given problems defending Saban in the past – is among the best in the country. And Olavey and Wilson provide him with an uber-talented duet for admission. Olave has five touchdowns in throws of 25 or more air yards this season, tied for the most in Power 5. Surtain said Olave’s speed is a challenge: “He creates a separation quickly at the top of his routes … is very patient and smooth with his movement along the route. “

Due to Bucky’s firepower, Golding believes the revs will be key.

“Ohio is averaging 43 [points] “And when they don’t, it’s because they’ve turned the ball,” Golding said. Not because people stopped them, but because they made a mistake. … So I think that’s critical to this game. “

Clemson, who is in such a talented Alabama stratosphere, was dominated by Bucky. The state of Ohio averaged a whopping 8.9 yards per game and finished with a total of 639 in its 49-28 victory. Ohio turned the ball only once.

But the Buckeyes said this Alabama defense seemed part of the video.

“They’re from a group that never makes a mistake about what abyss they have to be in,” said Ohio State Center Josh Myers. “If they’re on blitz, nobody’s wrong. … I’ve watched a bunch of movies on them and I don’t think I’ve seen it once.”

Kevin Wilson said: “[Our offensive line is] will get their strongest test on Monday night with the Alabama front because they are the best we’ve seen. “

Saban and Golding welcomed Den’s insight, and Golding said the combination of formations and tempos made Bucky’s challenge.

“He does a really good job of manipulating things through formation,” Golding said. “They do a lot of different things from the same group of staff.”

As Alabama’s defense changed with college football, so did the offense. “Tide” is the second highest-scoring team in the country (48.2 points per game) and its transformation into an explosive unit has made it such that Saban’s defense is no longer wanted to close teams. Mac Jones, Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith are likely to finish their roles on Monday.

Still, defending Tide faces a difficult challenge. If he has to slow down Ohio on Monday, it will come down to a few key factors, Golding said: doing well in space, forcing the bucks to make obvious passing falls, making third falls and creating turnovers.

Despite the collapse, Alabama must simply stop.

“The key is that great teams do what it takes to win every week, and that’s what their defense does,” said Kevin Wilson. “And that’s what coach Saban did, as well as anyone who has ever coached the football game.”

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