Tide, SEC Mostly Shine On Defense

When Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron – and therefore Alabama – had the nation's best passing efficiency last season, it put both in rare company for Bama insofar as offensive achievement. While Alabama has had a number of team bests in football statistics, most of those have come on defense.

Alabama has been particularly prominent the last couple of years in team defense as Coach Nick Saban's Crimson Tide was tops in scoring defense in both 2011 and 2012, number one in rushing defense those two seasons, and number one in total season in both years. Bama was also number one in pass defense in 2011.

Alabama has led the nation in total defense six times – 1938 (allowing 77.9 yards per game), 1945 (109.9 ypg), 1961 (132.6 ypg), 1992 (194.2 ypg), 2011 (183.6 ypg), and 2012 (250 ypg). Those last four seasons of leading the nation in total defense were national championship seasons.

SEC teams have led the nation in total defense 18 times. In addition to the six by Alabama, that achievement has been made by Auburn four times, Ole Miss tthree times, and once each by former member Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, LSU, Tennessee, and Kentucky (the Wildcats in 1949, when Paul Bryant was the coach).

The Tide has led the nation in scoring defense seven times: 1961 (2.2 points per game), 1966 (3.7 ppg), 1975 (6.0 ppg), 1979 (5.3 ppg), 2005 (10.7 ppg), 2011 (8.15 ppg), and 2012 (10.9 ppg). That also translated to national championships in four seasons – 1961, 1979, 2011, and 2012.

Bama's seven scoring defensive championships are among 21 by SEC teams. The others are Tennessee twice (including 1939 when the Vols did not give up a regular season point), LSU and Auburn three times each, Ole Miss twice, Georgia once, former member Georgia Tech twice, and Kentucky once, again the 1949 Bryant team.

SEC teams have led the nation in rushing defense 11 times with the Tide having been the leader four times – 1945 (33.9 yards per game), 1992 (55 ypg), 2011 (72.2 ypg), and 2012 (76.4 ypg). The last three were national championship teams. Other league teams that have led the nation in rushing defense include Auburn three times, LSU twice, and Ole Miss and Mississippi State once each.

SEC teams have led the nation in passing defense nine times with Bama having been best in five of those seasons – 1953 (45.6 yards per game), 1959 (45.7 ypg), 1990 (82.5 ypg), 2004 (113.1 ypg), and 2011 (111.5 ypg). Other conference teams to be best in passing offense are Tennessee, Florida, Vanderbilt, and former member Georgia tech once each.

The SEC is not nearly as well represented in offensive championships – two teams in scoring offense, two in total offense, three in passing offense, and four in passing efficiency. The only Bama ranking is last year's best in the nation passing efficiency number.

A.J. McCarron's performance last year – 211 completions in 314 attempts (67.2 per cent) for 2,933 yards and 30 touchdowns with only three interceptions – gave him the individual title in passing efficiency. In 1965 Bama's Steve Sloan was the nation's best in passing efficiency.

Alabama's only others in individual national championships are Shaun Alexander for scoring in 1999 with 24 touchdowns for 144 points; Hootie Ingram for interceptions with 10 in 1952; Harry Gilmer for punt returns in 1946 (11.8 per runback); and kick scorers – Philip Doyle for most field goals in both 1989 (22) and 1990 (24) and Michael Proctor in 1993 (22); and Hugh Morrow for kick scoring in 1945 when he made all 46 of his extra point kicks, David Ray in 1964 when he scored 52 kicking points on 23 PATs and 12 field goals.

Bama was also best in the nation in 1991 in punt returns at 16.8 yards per game.

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