Alabama vs. Alabama

If the University of Alabama football team from 2006 faced off head-to-head with the University of Alabama football team from 2005, the 2005 squad would win 99 times out of 100 thanks to defensive players like DeMeco Ryans, Mark Anderson, Roman Harper, Anthony Madison, Charlie Peprah and Freddie Roach.

And while the reflection of history is fast making Bama's 2005 effort look formidable against the best defenses in Crimson Tide football history, the maligned offense of today is remarkably similar to that of a year ago. Just look at the numbers:

Last year's Alabama squad averaged 358.9 yards per game. This year's team is 20 yards behind, averaging 338.8 per game. Almost all of the difference in last season's offense and the current one is in the ground game. Alabama 2005 averaged 142.5 rushing yards per game compared to 125.5 yards per game for this year's Crimson Tide.

Through the air, Alabama 2005 still has a slight advantage, a 216.4 to 213.4 edge over this year's team. Alabama 2005 quarterback Brodie Croyle has a razor thin lead in yards per game over John Parker Wilson 208.2 to 207.9.

Croyle threw for 2,499 yards in 12 games, while Wilson sits at 2,287 through 11 games this year. Croyle and Wilson are currently even in touchdown passes (14-14), and Croyle (.596 PCT) threw for a slightly higher percentage than Wilson (.575 PCT) has so far.

A big advantage to the Alabama '06 offense has been the scrambling ability of Wilson. He has 243 yards gained (almost all coming from scrambling efforts) rushing, and has gone backwards for 186 yards for a 57-yard net. Croyle's rushing plusses and minuses were the inverse. He went backwards for 270 yards of sacks (remember those 11 sacks against Auburn?) and gained 114 yards on scrambles and sneaks for a net loss of 156 yards.

Wilson has completed 180 passes this year, a mark surpassed by only two other Bama quarterbacks, Gary Hollingsworth (205) and Croyle (182 in 2003 and 202 in 2005). The same holds true for pass attempts (Hollingsworth 339, Croyle 339 in 2005 and 341 in 2003), passing yards (Hollingsworth 2,379, Croyle 2,303 in 2003 and 2,499 in 2005). Wilson is behind only Croyle and Mike Shula (both have 16) in single-season touchdown passes with 14.

Kenneth Darby, 2005 edition, totaled 1,242 yards on 239 carries for an average of 103.5 per game. Darby 2006 is at 772 yards on 184 carries for a 70.2 yard per attempt average.

Receiver D.J. Hall 2005 had 48 receptions for 676 yards, an average of 61.5 per game. Hall 2006 is one yard away from breaking David Palmer's single-season Alabama receiving yardage record with 999 yards on 56 receptions. (He's currently tied for third all-time in receptions, and nine away from Freddie Milons' school record set in 1999.)

Keith Brown 2005 had 34 catches for 642 yards. Brown 2006, through injuries, has had 40 grabs for 544 yards – a drop-off of over five yards per catch, indicating he's not the big-play threat he was a year ago.

What's missing? Tyrone Prothro's 65 yards a game last season has not been replaced since his injury. In fact, after Hall and Brown, all of Alabama's 2006 receivers combined are averaging of only 2.8 yards more than Prothro did by himself last season, and no Bama fan needs to be reminded that Prothro did so much more than just catch passes.

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