In great part because of the fabulous run of tailbacks in the Nick Saban Era at Alabama, the Crimson Tide has the reputation as a pound-it-out running team, but Bama success has been in great part because of outstanding receivers. There are surprising comparisons in rushing offense and passing offense over the past nine seasons.
Early in his tenure at Alabama, Nick Saban said that he wanted the offense to be balanced, and that has been the case most seasons. His first season, 2007, was more dependent on the passing game with the Tide finishing with 1,940 yards rushing and 2,919 passing.
Since then, the numbers have been more balanced. In 2008, Bama rushed for 2,585 yards and had 2,396 yards passing.
The 2009 national championship team with Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and freshman Trent Richardson sharing the rushing load, had 3,011 yards rushing, 2,631 passing.
In 2010, passing was more productive than rushing with Julio Jones receptions accounting for 1,133 yards and the Tide having 3,395 yards passing, 2,378 rushing.
The 2011 national championship team with Richardson and Lacy doing most of the running had 2,788 yards rushing, but a slight edge to AJ McCarron’s passing with Bama having 2,797 – extraordinary balance, a margin of passing accounting for 50.1 per cent, rushing 49.9 per cent.
Alabama had two 1,000-yard rushers in the 2012 national title season, Lacy picking up 1,322 and T.J. Yeldon 1,108 and the Tide rushing for 3,185 yards. But that offense also had big numbers in the passing game, 3,052 yards. That was a difference of the rushing game accounting for 51.1 per cent, the passing game 48.9 per cent.
The 2013 season had a big edge to passing, 3,230 to 2,673 rushing, as was the case in 2014 with 3,890 passing in Blake Sims’s record-setting season (he accounted for 3,487 yards) to 2,893 as both Derrick Henry (990) and Yeldon (979) came up just short on 1,000-yard seasons.
Last year’s national championship team had Henry rushing for a Southeastern Conference record 2,219 yards and the Tide had rushing yardage of 2,999 yards. But Jake Coker passed for 3,110 yards and Bama had 3,407 yards through the air.
In the past nine seasons, Alabama has produced 27,717 yards passing and 24,457 yards rushing. That’s 53.1 per cent of the total offense of 52,174 yards from the passing game and 46.9 per cent from rushing.
The difference in total yardage in the Saban period is passing providing 3,260 more passing yards. But that amounts to only 362 yards difference per season, and only 26.5 yards per game over 123 games.