With September's slate of games concluded the Alabama Crimson Tide's 2011 football season is now one third complete. With four contests now in the books, that means it's time to take our first look at where things stand statistically in comparison to the rest of college football. Here are all of the categories from the NCAA's 2011 FBS Football Statistics page that Alabama appears in the top ten.
As you might expect, the Alabama is at the top of just about every major defensive category. The number that jumps out here is the Total Yards Allowed per Game. That 184 yards opponents have managed against the Tide is actually 18.5 yards less than Alabama's national championship-caliber 2009 defensive squad permitted after four games (202.5 yds).
According to the UA Athletics stats folks, Alabama is allowing only 2.82 yards per play, the fewest for any team in the country. Moreover,opposing offenses have run 261 plays against the Tide with slightly more than a quarter of those accounting for more than five yards. We knew the defense was formidable this year but sweet mercy.
A big reason for the dominant defensive numbers is the performance of the secondary. Defensive pass efficiency and passes defended are both at the top nationally. In addition, the Tide also leads the nation in yards per attempt at 3.52 ypa while ranking second in yards per completion at 8.01.
On offense, Alabama is represented at the top pretty much by Trent Richardson alone. And that tie for scoring in the SEC is with South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore. It will be interesting to see if one of these outstanding running backs will separate from the other now the conference play is upon us. Marquis Maze is the Crimson Tide's special team's representative in the top ten almost entirely due to his punt return for a touchdown against Arkansas.
The one other stat that deserves attention here is the fewest penalties. This matters less because of the kindness of the zebras thus far in the season than as an indication of the squad's discipline and the caliber of the coaching. That portends well for the ability of the team to execute to the level Coach Saban will demand as the Tide gets into the meat of the conference schedule.
Follow us after the jump for how Alabama performed in all of the statistical categories.
Trent Richardson, as we noted before, is having one hell of a year already and his only real competition in the conference is Lattimore. The defensive secondary is astonishing in that it boasts three players in the top third of the passes defended category and two in the top ten. AJ McCarron's numbers are all nicely above average. For a player learning on the job he's performed quite well thus far but the real question is how much he improves as we move into the heart of the schedule.
Yet as much as people might decry the Alabama offense as mediocre from a national perspective, it's doing quite well in comparison with its conference peers. Who is the team that holds the top spot in most of these categories? Florida. So that's something to consider as we head to Gainesville this weekend. And I'm not a fan of the stat the NCAA uses to rank Red Zone Efficency so here are the raw numbers on the Crimson Tide's performance within the 20-yard-line.
As already noted, the Alabama defense has been as good as advertised so far this season. The question is if they can maintain this pace. The unit has held opponents to a meager 43.95 completion percentage through four games (67-of-157) but still interceptions are surprisingly scarce. Tackles for Loss and Sacks are once again a bit low but, Coach Saban assures us, those categories aren't the priority for the guys on the field.
Marquis Maze and Trent Richardson have been a force on kickoff and punt returns but the rest of the unit deserves credit as well. Dumb penalties and missed assignments that have bedeviled the unit in the past have been delightfully rare thus far. Turnover margin is quite a bit lower than we've seen in years past but that's almost certainly due to the heap o' picks thrown against Kent State and the relative lack of interceptions by the secondary. As long as that number doesn't dip farther, things should be alright for the Tide.