05 December 2008
The consensus is in, and Alabama will lose on Saturday.
You may not have noticed (although, I'm guessing you have), but Alabama can't beat Florida. They're too fast on both sides of the ball. Too talented on offense. Too scary on defense.
And that's the way we like it. We'll have more on that later. But let's talk about 1992
It's been 16 years since that fateful night in New Orleans where the Tide was, like this game, a big underdog and faced no chance. Many people are working hard this week to draw those parallels. It's a tough defense and a efficient offense against a high-powered high-scoring attack.
Sorry. While if you squint hard enough they look the same, there are big league differences.
Current Alabama is probably worse at every position on defense. Terrence Cody
may be the lone exception to this argument. He's a better player than James Gregory. Gregory was very good, but Cody is at another level. But as a unit, the defensive line is still a laugher.
Who would you rather have - Bobby Greenwood
or Eric Curry? Brandon Deaderick
or John Copeland. The 2008 bookends suffer much in comparison. This is no contest.
Linebackers are a little bit tougher. On the inside, we're talking Rolondo McClain
versus Derrick Oden. Both are excellent. McClain probably has more talent, but Oden was a senior in 1992, and that makes a difference.
Again, as we move outside, we're talking Brandon Fanney
and Cory Reamer
against Antonio London and Lemanski Hall. I love Fanny and Reamer as much as the next guy, but come on... London and Hall were in the NFL (at least for a cup of coffee). Corey Reamer will not play in the NFL.
The 1992 corners were Antonio Langham, Sam Shade and Tommy Johnson. Javier Arenas
, Kareem Jackson
, and Marquis Johnson
. Again, no slight to our current guys, but it's tough to make an argument that any of our corners would start in 1992.
Safeties? Advantage: 1992. Rashad Johnson
and Justin Woodall
play well in the middle - very well. But George Teague and Chris Donnelly are better. Donnelly was probably on par with Woodall, but Teague is better than Johnson. That's no slight on Johnson - George Teague is better than most safeties every to wear crimson. I'm not sure if you remember, but George Teague made a nice play or two in 1992.
The numbers aren't close enough to merit comparison. The 1992 defense was better. It's not close.
We'll exclude the national title game at this point - it gives the 1992 team an extra game, and the comparisons become much simpler. (Plus, bowl games didn't count towards season stats in 1992, so the numbers are much more difficult to find.)
We allowed 660 yards rushing in 12 games in 1992. That includes the SEC Championship game. We've only allowed 883 this year, but that's 200 yards more against diluted competition (Southern Miss in 1992 was nearly as good as Clemson and better by far than any other non-conference foe. Additionally, these numbers include a very good Florida team in the SEC Championship).
Similarly, we allowed 1670 passing yards in 1992 - this year we've given up 2099. Another nice sized disparity.
The scoring numbers are again pretty significant. Our opponents scored 138 points. Very impressive. In 1992, it was 109. That's less than 10 points per game in 1992. I'm starting to remember how special that team was.
In contrast, it's easy to forget how... mediocre our offense was in 1992. Across the board.
Our offensive line this year is as good as any we've had at the Capstone since the Bear was on the sidelines. All five of these guys could play at the next level. Yes, even the much maligned Drew Davis
. Three will play in the league next year. They're experienced, talented and motivated. The 1992 line was very good - this line is great.
Moving to the skill positions, it gets easier to compare apples to apples.
Sophomore quarterback Jay Barker threw 243 passes, completing 132 for 1614 yards. John Parker Wilson
has thrown 268 passes, completing 157 for 1909 yards. Barker had nine interceptions to seven touchdowns. Wilson has 9 touchdowns to five interceptions. Could you imagine how maligned Wilson would be if he'd thrown nine interceptions this year? He's thrown five and people want him benched. How many passes has Wilson thrown that have wound up inside the five this year? How many times have we thrown after that?
Wilson is superior to Barker in every possible way. He has a better arm, makes better choices, and has managed the team as well as anyone could have hoped. There's no doubt in my mind that senior Wilson is better than sophomore Jay Barker. I know it's considered blasphemy in some circles, but it's hard to argue otherwise based on these numbers.
Derrick Lassic and Chris Anderson were the tailbacks. They were the heart and soul of our offense. Lassic had 990 yards on 178 attempts (5.56 ypc). Anderson had 600 on 94 attempts (6.38 ypc). Martin Houston, the fullback, actually had 103 carries for a meager 465 yards that year as well (4.51 ypc).
Compare to Glen Coffee
with 1265 yards on 199 attempts (6.36 ypc) and Mark Ingram
with 681 on 127 attempts (5.36 ypc). Roy Upchurch
adds 351 yards on 58 carries (6.05 ypc). The top three rushers here are better. The numbers are better, and these are three very talented backs.
Tight ends are laughable. Steve Busky was a very servicable player. Good to have on the team. He caught eight passes for 81 yards. He was a more an adequate blocker.
He wouldn't see the field behind Travis McCall
or Nick Walker
. It's just not close at all. Walker has 26 catches (and 262 yards) on the season, and McCall has seven catches (52 yards). McCall is one of the best blocking tight ends in the conference, and Walker is no slouch. Easy to choose this unit over the 1992 unit.
David Palmer had a breakout sophomore season in 1992. He caugh 24 passes for 297 yards. Kevin Lee added 21 for 286 and Prince Wimbley equaled that with 21 of his own for 248. Curtis Brown added 20 catches for 327 yards. All very nice.
has caught 46 passes for 723 yards. He's clearly a better receiver than Palmer was (Palmer was obviously more gifted in other areas). Bama's second leading wide receiver this season is Mike McCoy
with 16 catches for 191 yards (obviously Nick Walker is our second leading receiver). Marquis Maze
has 11 catches on the season for 137 yards.
It's a big drop off after Jones. The 1992 receiving corps was obviously deeper, but not as talented at the top. This one's a push.
Despite the lack of edge at receiver, the 2008 offense is, in a word, better. In nearly every concievable way.
Special teams is a bit of fun. Michael Proctor banged home 19 of 27 (70.4%) field goals with a long of 47. He was widely regarded as an excellent kicker. Bashing Leigh Tiffin
has become a bit of a pastime here in Alabama, but Tiffin is 17 of 24 (70.8%), with a long of 54. Interesting contrast...
Punters? Bryne Diehl punted 64 times, for 2444 yards - an average of 38.2. PJ Fitzgerald
has punted 51 times for 2097 yards - a 41.1 yard average. Advantage Fitz.
Return yardage is where this gets really interesting. David Palmer returned 29 punts for 236 yards (8.4 yards per) and one touchdown. Chris Anderson returned 16 punts for another 93 yards. In contrast, Javier Arenas has returned 38 punts for 557 yards (a 14.7 average) and 2 touchdowns. He's a better punt returner right now.
On kick returns, Palmer returned just 6 kickoffs for 145 yards (24.2 average). Chris Anderson chipped in another 5 for 103 (20.6 average). Arenas has returned another 17 kicks for 385 yards (22.6 average). So, none of these guys really stood out in this area (no touchdowns among these returns).
Palmer did have a knack for the big game - he returned a second punt for a touchdown in the Sugar Bowl - but this is closer than most would expect.
Alabama's 1992 sported one of the best defenses in college football history. The offense wasn't great. At all. It didn't have to be. The 2008 Alabama team requires much more out of its offense. The Tide can't creep by on defense alone this year, and the offense has stepped up in areas that the 1992 offense couldn't.
If the Tide wins on Saturday, it's not going to be because of the efforts on one side of the ball or another - it'll be a total team effort.