True, Alabama ranks fourth in the nation in passing defense (154 yards per game) and pass efficiency defense, and is ranked the best in the SEC in those categories. But regional bias can go both ways, and Alabama's salty-in-the-rough-and-tumble-SEC defense will be tested in an altogether different way by Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl on January second.
Four-year Alabama starting defensive back Charlie Peprah was hoping for a bowl game with warm weather and a change of scenery, instead he and the Alabama football team are going 20 miles from Peprah's hometown in Plano, Texas to Dallas, where he says the weather can "freak out on you" during bowl season.
"It could be an ice storm or it could be 70 degrees," Peprah said. Most predictions tend towards 20, but Peprah has plenty to look forward to in his trip home. "I could probably tell you some good places to go," he said.
Despite the desire for more exotic locations, Peprah is glad to be going home. It will be a chance for many friends and family to see him play in person for the first time, and also for Pep to record his first interception of the season.
"What better way to gout out than like this," he said. "I keep smiling about it because I think this is the first time a lot of people who haven't watched me play are going to get to come, and I think I'm going to play well."
Peprah first said he was "banking on like 90" family and friends in attendance, then he backed off that number. "I told my mom let's just get the core of the fam - the aunts and uncles - and I've got to get them tickets. I'm going to need double digits for sure. I've been trying to hit up teammates. I'm going to go after the young guys."
Peprah began his career as a playmaker and a seeming magnet for the football. He had four interception in each of his first two seasons and an interception return for a touchdown in each his freshman and sophomore year. He has recorded just one interception since moving from cornerback to safety at the beginning of the 2004 season.
After his sophomore year, Peprah was just one interception return for touchdown from equaling Antonio Langham's record mark of three in a career. "I think this game is giving me another chance to make up for the ones I've missed out on," he said.
Texas Tech has 552 pass attempts this season (50.2 attempts per game), although much of it is in the short passing game. Tech quarterback Cody Hodges has thrown 12 interceptions in 499 attempts, which averages out to one pick every 42 attempts.
In terms of sheer volume, Texas Tech's passing attack will likely be the most prolific Alabama has seen in the Shula era. The current high-mark is the 2003 Hawaii game, when UH threw 48 times. The Cotton Bowl will provide a thorough test of the progress of Bama's pass defense in the past two years.
"In Hawaii the elements were a little bit worse," Peprah said. "The carpet turf, the heat. I was young at the time."
But, Peprah said, "It's pretty much the same deal. They just keep throwing it and wearing down at you. You can't let up. You saw what happened last time, we had ‘em and they just kept coming and coming."