Friday, August 31, 2012
'Bama defense to key on Robinson's rushes
By ESPN Stats & Information
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireNo. 2 Alabama begins its title defense in a tough early-season matchup against No. 8 Michigan in the Cowboys Classic Saturday (ABC, 8 ET).
Over its last 13 games against FBS competition, Alabama's defense has allowed only 45.2 rush yards per game and 2 TD. LSU rushed for only 38 yards in a 21-0 loss in the BCS title game.
The Crimson Tide dominated with defense last season, ranking first nationally in rushing, passing, scoring and total defense. The Tide return only four starters from that unit, but many of the replacements saw quality minutes in 2011. Either way, don’t expect much of a drop-off.
If Michigan takes the lead at some point after the first quarter, it would be news. Although Alabama had a loss last season, it was the only team in the nation that didn’t trail for a second of clock time after the first quarter. Bama’s only loss came on a game-ending FG in overtime against LSU. Alabama hasn’t trailed after the first quarter in clock time since its 2010 loss to Auburn.
Want more Bama defense? Over their last 13 games against FBS opponents, they have allowed only 45.2 rushing yards per game and only two rushing touchdowns.
Last season, Alabama forced a “3 & Out” on 61 of its opponents’ 158 possessions (38.6 percent), the highest percentage and the most forced in FBS. In the last eight seasons, only Ohio State in 2007 (40.1) and TCU in 2009 (39.0) have forced “3 & Outs” at a higher rate than last season’s Tide.
This is the first time Michigan is playing an opener in a neutral site, and it does so against a ranked team for the first time since 2002, when it defeated No. 11 Washington 31-29. The Wolverines haven’t faced a top-five team in the opener since a 1992 showdown with No. 3 Notre Dame. That game ended in a 17-17 tie.
THE DENARD FACTOR
If Michigan wants to hand Alabama its first season opening loss to an AP top-10 team since 1970 (vs No. 3 USC), they will rely on the arm and legs of quarterback Denard Robinson.
No one is questioning his legs. Robinson attempted 59 fewer designed rushes in 2011 than 2010, but still gained over 1,000 yards on those types of runs.
The Tide will try to make Robinson beat them with his arm. In his career, Robinson has completed 39.3 percent of passes 15 yards downfield with more interceptions than touchdowns (15 to 14). He regressed in 2011, completing just 32 of his 84 attempts of this distance.