Alabama's defense is as fearsome a unit as there is in the country. There are few, if any, discernible weaknesses in the group overall. Nick Saban is an outstanding defensive coach and Kirby Smart executes the schemes extremely well -- they are discipline, play fast, understand tendencies, and do not allow much on the ground. It might not be necessary to speak about them in the hushed and awed tones that Mack Brown has adopted while discussing the Alabama defense with the media, but then it's not that hard to do so after watching them on film.
Like most good defenses, Alabama is excellent when the opponent is in their red zone -- the field is so compacted that it becomes much easier to defend the limited space available to the offense. But just how good is Alabama at stopping opponents from scoring in the red zone? Can teams get the ball into the end zone at a high rate when they do manage to move it?
Opponent Red Zone Conversions
|Name ||G||Attempts||Scores||Score %||TD||TD %||FG||FG %|
- A quick glance at the national stats reveal that an average team in opponent red zone conversions allows scores on about 80% of trips into the red zone by their opponent. Alabama is a ridiculous 15% below that mark.
- Look at the attempts as well -- only 23 all season. That's second in the country to TCU. So not only do opponents rarely score once they get into the red zone, it's extraordinarily difficult to even get there -- it happens less than twice per game. The average team in the country allowed twice as many trips into their red zone -- roughly four times per game.
- The eight touchdowns allowed this season in the red zone on defense is the lowest number in the country, three less than Nebraska. Texas, by comparison, gave up 15.
- Giving up so few touchdowns allows correlates to a low touchdown percentage -- just under 35%, good enough for third in the country, behind Ole Miss and LSU, interestingly enough. Texas is 28th at 50%.
For a defense with a ton of impressive statistics, this particular one ranks right near the top. Even if you defense does bend a bit over the course of the game and allow a sustained drive or two, keeping the opponent from scoring once in the red zone is huge -- it keeps points off the board, most importantly. It steals momentum from a team that just gained some actually moving the ball against Alabama, a monumental victory in and of itself. Even settling for a field goal can be extremely deflating in a game when touchdowns are extremely valuable.
Based on these statistics getting into the red zone three times isn't exactly the best-case scenario for the Longhorns, but it will probably be necessary to win the game and is almost twice what Alabama gives up on average. Even against ranked teams Alabama has only given up 2.3 trips into the red zone per game. Offensively, Texas scores a touchdown on 70% of their drives into the red zone, good for 15th in the country. Against Oklahoma, however, Texas only scored one touchdown in four attempts (I include, but College Football Stats does not, the turnover on McCoy's run that did not start in the red zone, but occurred close to the goalline). Aganst Nebraska, the 'Horns scored a touchdown on their only attempt.
In looking at the stats of both teams, Texas is likely to score a touchdown on only one of those three trips into the red zone. Two things become of the utmost importance on those three trips, then: 1) scoring that touchdown on one of the opportunities, and 2) avoiding that one in three chance that Alabama keeps any points from going on the board, especially by forcing a turnover. Following that prescription would amount to 13 points on drives into the red zone.
Basically, if the Longhorns can get into the red zone three times in the game offensively, score a touchdown on one and field goals on the other two, than they have an excellent chance of winning the game. Adding seven to 10 more from a combination of drives that result in field goals from outside the red zone or a special teams/defense touchdown or long touchdown would probably give Texas a 70% chance to win the game or more with 20 points or more. Fail in the red zone, as the Longhorns did twice against Oklahoma on Colt McCoy turnovers, once on a fumble and once on the interception that Jackson could have taken back the distance -- admittedly Goodwin's fault on a bad on a bad freshman mistake he should never repeat -- and winning becomes an extremely difficult proposition. Statistically unlikely.