The conventional wisdom concerning the 2011 Alabama Crimson Tide attributes the team's success to a historically great defense supported by a better-than-average offense. And that's when the writer was being generous.
While the pundits slathered over the latest point-a-minute passing team racking up ungodly stats in some cut rate conference Bama's offensive attack was met with a resounding "meh" and the games were dismissed as a yawn-worthy puntfests. "Boycott the BCS National Championship Game because of boredom!" they cried.
Turns out that over the last two seasons, Alabama's offense has been the Crimson Tide's most productive in the modern era. Who knew? (Other than Tom Rinaldi, of course.)
Last year we here at Roll Bama Roll unveiled a public spreadsheet that tracks the raw defensive statistics for every game over the past half-century. This year we are doing the same for the offense. The Alabama Offensive Totals 1990-2011 is now posted and ready for your perusal. We'll be filling in prior years over the rest of the off season.
These stats are drawn primarily from the University of Alabama football archives but we rely on newspaper box scores to fill in the gaps. Like the defensive numbers, the tally is limited to the raw numbers that are available across the historical periods. While there is certainly much more detailed data at hand for contemporary seasons, the idea here is to get a reasonable comparison of the Alabama teams across historical eras.
For this, our first examination of these offensive numbers, lets keep it simple. Here is a look at the total points per game over the past 22 seasons:
Alabama's 2011 National Champions racked up 34.85 points per game -- a total that was only good enough for 20th in the nation but it earned the Crimson Tide second-best mark for Alabama in the past 22 seasons. Bama's top squad points wise was the three-loss 2010 team who came in 18th nationally that season.
The No. 3 Alabama unit for lighting up the scoreboard in the past two decades was Dubose's 1999 team that managed to best Steve Spurrier's high-flying Gator squad twice that season. Live by the sword, die by the sword, eh, OBC?
But points themselves might not exactly demonstrate production on the field. Here are the total offense tallys for the Tide teams since 1990.
Like we saw with points, the last two seasons were, by far, the Crimson Tide's most productive in terms of offense. The 429.62 yards per game last year were the second best mark for the Alabama attack since 1990 with, once again, the 2010 team being slightly better. These squads were 31st and 22nd in the nation respectively. The step back in 2008 gives a hint as to why that team faltered so badly at the end of the season.
The next two most productive Alabama squads came under Dennis Franchione's watch in 2001 and 2002. The two worst Crimson Tide offenses in this span were Gene Stallings' first campaign in 1990 and Mike Dubose's final one in 2000. But that's all we've got to say about that.
Let's break this down a little bit further and get an idea of the overall production from the passing and rushing attacks individually.
Holey Moley! Jay Barker was not afraid to sling that ball down the field! In 1993 and 1995 he stayed within nine inches of hitting 15 yards per completion and he had no small part in keeping those numbers up in 1991. It seems a little counter-intuitive that Barker's worst year was the undefeated national championship run.
Almost a decade later, Tyler Watts and Andrew Zow didn't seem to hesitate at testing defensive secondaries either. Fran may have been flaky but his offenses were bona fide.
What stands out in the Saban era is the unusually low mark in 2007 (sayonara Applewhite!) and the extraordinarily high tally of 13.4 yards per completion in 2010. That suggests the Tide were pushing the passing game more often than its wont and Alabama's final record is a testament to that as well. Still, Greg McElroy had a 70% completion rate that year, easily the best at The Capstone in the past 22 seasons and his 9.4 yards per completion was tied at fourth-best in the nation in 2010.
But the bread and butter of Alabama's offense since Nick Saban got off that plane at the Tuscaloosa airport on January 3, 2007 and got a drunken kiss on the cheek from Collete Connell has been the running game. To wit...
Last season set the high-water mark for Alabama rushing with Tide back earning almost 5.5 yards every time they touched the ball. That's an amazing turn of events since bottoming out in 2006. Basically Alabama's running attack has improved by almost two full yards per carry since the last time Mike Shula roamed the sideline. Yeesh.
As happy as we all are at TJ Yeldon's performance on A Day, the Tide backfield has a lot to live up to going forward. When you look at the most productive teams per carry each year nationally, once you get over 5.5 yards it is populated by spread squads that put a premium on mobile QBs and have a fetish for the option. For an offense centered on the ground game, Alabama's rushing attack is flying so high right now the air up here is mighty damn thin.
Here again, we see a massive uptick in production in 2001 under Franchione. Perhaps it's time we re-evaluate the Ahmaad Galloway/Santonio Beard era at The Capstone. Siran Stacy lead an extremely productive Crimson Tide backfield in Stallings' 11-1 second season. It's also a little surprising to see Shaun Alexander's 1,178 yard 1998 All-SEC season fall so low in yards-per-carry.
Now, obviously, all this is just scratching the surface of the data in our public spreadsheet. While we are intent on filling these in to cover the same time period as the defensive statistics we also welcome suggestions on how to use the spreadsheet to crank out usable comparisons of the info. On the far right of the main chart are a few examples of what is possible so if you have any ideas of other formulas we can squeeze the data with, let us know.