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Tide still high at Bama: Stats don’t back talk about team having down year

December 23, 2017

Is the No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide football team having a down year?

That is the question being debated among members of the national media ahead of their New Year’s Day matchup with the No. 1 Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl (8:45 p.m., ESPN).

The numbers show the Crimson Tide defense is just as formidable as it was last season, and in some case’s better.

Last season, the Tide ranked No. 1 in scoring defense, No.1 in rush defense, No. 14 in pass defense, No. 1 in total defense, No. 5 in pass-efficiency defense, 13th in opponent competition percentage, No. 8 in touchdown passes allowed, No. 14 in interceptions, No. 3 in sacks, No. 9 in tackles for loss, No. 7 in third-down defense, No. 1 in first downs allowed, No. 1 in yards per rush, No. 1 in yards per play, No. 3 in yards per pass attempt and No. 8 in turnovers forced.

In total, the Tide defense ranked first in the nation in six of the 16 major defensive categories last season.

This year, the Tide defense ranks No. 1in scoring defense, No. 1 in touchdowns, 16th in red zone touchdowns, No. 9 in first downs, No. 21 in third-down defense, No. 40 in turnovers forced, No. 2 in total defense, No. 1 in yards per play, No. 3 in rushing yards allowed, No. 2 in yards per rush, No. 7 in rushing touchdowns allowed, No. 7 in pass defense, No. 2 in pass--efficiency defense, No. 25 in completion percentage, No. 1 in yards per pass attempt, No. 25 in sacks and No. 40 in tackles for loss.

In total this season, the Tide defense ranks first (four) or second (three) in seven defensive categories.

Offensively, last season the Tide ranked 34th nationally in total offense (455.3 yards per game), 12th in rushing offense (245 yards per game), 87th in passing offense (210.3 yards per game) and 15th in scoring offense (38.8 points per game).

This season, the Tide offense ranks 20th in total offense (465.4 yards per game), 10th in rushing offense (265.3 yards per game), 86th in passing offense (200.1 yards per game) and 12th in scoring offense (39.1 points per game) — an improvement in every major offensive category.

It is those kinds of numbers that has Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney not buying into the rhetoric that Alabama is down.

“They’re just really good — they always are,” Swinney said. “They’re good in the trenches, they’re great on defense — all of their statistics show they’re great on defense — their quarterback’s more experienced, two freaky backs. I mean great backs. They’ve got good skill on the perimeter. They’ve always done a nice job with their tight ends.

“They’re in your face. You’ve got to win your matchups — all three levels. It’s that simple. They don’t really give you anything. So it’s a tough matchup.”

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