By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
NEW ORLEANS – Alabama head coach Nick Saban is known for, tops among many things, his outstanding defensive mind. His teams play with relentless effort, especially on the defensive side of the ball and Monday’s BCS Championship Game should be no exception.
It’s hard to fathom after all of the great defensive squads Saban has produced at both Alabama and LSU, but the fact is, this season’s defense may just be his best ever.
The Crimson Tide are holding their opposition to a nation-low 8.8 points per game and also lead the nation in total defense at 191.3 yards per game. They also are tops in the nation in pass efficiency, rushing defense and pass defense.
“This defense is as good as any I’ve ever been around,” Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said. “Obviously the 2009 group was really special. And this group is kind of different because we’re really good on the edges and really stout inside.”
Alabama will be looking for its 14th all-time national championship and its second in three years. Saban is the only active college coach to have won two BCS National Championships, having won one at LSU as well. He goes for No. 3 on Monday evening at the Louisiana Superdome vs. his former squad.
The school’s current senior class has been a key catalyst in the program’s success. That group of fourth-year players has won a school-record 47 games over the past four seasons and has only lost six contests. It is the second-best four-year total in Southeastern Conference history.
“We got on the bus to head over here, started looking around and there are a lot of faces that were also in Pasadena (site of the 2009 BCS Championship),” Smart said in a press conference Saturday. “We’re very fortunate to have this great group. I can remember recruiting each one of them and I’m going to be really sad to see them go. They’ve led this team to a lot of victories.”
The best thing about this year’s Alabama defense?
“They’re very instinctive, is the term we as coaches use, instinctive in play recognition and formation recognition,” Smart said. “It’s similar to the other team, the only difference is I think this one has a little more speed on it.”
Sure, those are the things you see on the field. But, just what has made this senior-laden defense so highly successful that it is on the verge of possibly winning a second national title?
“Our kids do a good job watching tape and seeing things,” Smart said. “They like football and they enjoy the game. That’s the reason they’ve been successful.”