Surprising to many is Alabama Coach Nick Saban’s stance that the Crimson Tide’s measurements of efficiency do not include sacks by the Bama defense.
Saban makes the case that the job of the pass rush is to “affect the quarterback,” which, of course, can be done in a variety of ways. The quarterback can be pressured into being unable to make the throw, making a poor pass, or even forcing him to throw before his receivers can run their routes. The rushing defenders can also knock down passes. Not counting linebackers who may have had some tipped behind-the-line passes, Alabama defensive linemen had 18 passes broken up: Dalvin Tomlinson 6, Jonathan Allen 4, Jarran Reed 2, A’Shawn Robinson 2, D.J. Pettway 2, Daron Payne 1, and Darren Lake 1.
Still, it’s generally held that the sack is a big part of football, and Alabama was very successful in taking down the quarterback in the 2015 national championship season.
The Tide ranked third in the nation in sacks last season with an average of 3.53 per game. Bama led the nation in number of sacks with 53 and was second in sack yardage with 337.
That certainly helped Alabama in ranking third in the nation in total defense, allowing 276.3 yards per game and giving up only 24 touchdowns in a 14-1 season. In part because sacks show up in rushing defense, the Tide led the nation in that category, giving up 1,136 yards on 468 rushes, 2.43 yards per play and 75.7 yards per game. Bama was eighth in the nation in passing defense efficiency, and Alabama’s pass rush certainly contributed to the Tide having 19 interceptions, which were returned for 462 yards and four touchdowns.
End Jonathan Allen led Bama last year with 12 sacks for 88 yards in losses, which tied for fifth in the nation individually. Linebacker Tim Williams was credited with 10 ½ for 78 yards.
Other Tide players with sack statistics returning in 2016 are Ryan Anderson with 6 for 41 yards, Rashaan Evans (4-28), Minkah Fitzpatrick (2-17), Reuben Foster (2-7), Da’Shawn Hand (1-1), Ronnie Harrison (1-1/2), and Daron Payne (1/2-3).
Thus, Bama returns men who turned in 39 sacks for 263 ½ yards in 2015. Those nine men alone would have ranked ninth in the nation last year, just ahead of Ohio State.
Clemson, the Tide’s opponent in the national championship game, ranked second in the nation with 48 sackes for 322 yards in losses.
In 2015 the No. 2 Southeastern Conference team in sacks was Florida, which was Alabama’s opponent in the SEC Championship Game. The Gators ranked fifth in the nation with 40 sacks for 294 yards in losses. LSU (34-236) and Texas A&M (34-200) were tied for 24th. Mississippi State (30-209) and Tennessee (30-179) tied for 42nd, Ole Miss (29-197) was 52nd, Missouri (28-168) 55th, Vanderbilt (26-156) was 65th, Georgia (21-121) 93rd, Arkansas (20-125) 98th, South Carolina (20-137) and Auburn (19-136) tied for 102nd, and Kentucky 17-110) 108th.