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Dr. Saturday

Gruesome coronation enshrines Alabama’s defense as the new gold standard

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

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BCS Championship Game: Alabama 21, LSU 0.
It's not something I'd ever thought about, specifically, but before Monday night, I didn't really think it was possible to describe a team that failed to score a touchdown as dominant. After Monday night — after a month of openly dreading an all-SEC rematch and a reprise of the 9-6 field goal fest in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 5 — I almost wish Alabama hadn't finally reached the end zone in the waning moments of the blowout. After nearly two full games of merciless, scorched-earth football, Trent Richardson's 34-yard gallop to paydirt with 5:40 to play wasn't just lipstick on a pig. It defied the Crimson Tide's basic argument.

There was almost something dishonest about it: A touchdown? Alabama don't need no stinking touchdown. They barely needed any of the five Jeremy Shelley field goals that had come before it. And if they hadn't gotten it, they'd still be playing, because LSU certainly wouldn't be any closer to putting points on the board.

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So let's just say it: The 2011 Alabama defense stands among the greatest ever in college football. It's certainly the greatest of the spread era. It's so good, it's unwatchable. All season long, watching the Crimson Tide has been like watching a boa constrictor slowly squeezing the life out of a mouse. By the fourth quarter of this game, with LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson clearly reeling from a combination of pressure and frustration, you could have also compared it to watching lions team up on a wounded gazelle. There's no artistry to it. It's not designed for your viewing pleasure. It's just a pride closing in for the kill.

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The scene in the Superdome was particularly gruesome. The shutout is the first ever in a BCS bowl. LSU's offense gained 91 yards and didn't cross midfield until the midway point of the fourth quarter. Jefferson was sacked four times, completed one pass that covered more than 10 yards, and none that covered 20. At one point in the third quarter, he "threw" one of the dumbest interceptions on record and was booed by his own fans when he returned to the lineup on the next series. At the half, the Tigers were 0 for 5 on third-down conversions with one total first down; they finished 2 of 12 on third down with five first downs. They never seriously threatened to score.

For the season, Alabama finishes as the national leader in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense, passing defense, pass efficiency defense and third-down defense. At 8.2 points per game, the Crimson Tide are the least-scored-upon team in Division I in well over a decade. They allowed a grand total of nine touchdowns in 13 games, and kept opposing offenses out of the end zone entirely in six. At least three (and quite possibly four) starters will be going in the first round of April's NFL draft. Monday night, the 'Bama offense — which, red zone struggles notwithstanding, delivered arguably the best game any opattack has managed against LSU this year — could have spent three hours kneeling the clock out.

Not that the defense didn't mind the break when quarterback A.J. McCarron was extending drives with his arm. Scoring was just beside the point.

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The point now: Alabama is 12-1, was not challenged in any of its 12 wins and now owns its second BCS championship in three years. Nick Saban is the first coach of the BCS era with three titles to his name. The Crimson Tide were everything they were expected to be at the beginning of the season, and came as close to a perfect season as you can come without attaining it, and avenged their only loss. As far as a championship is concerned, there are still a few votes to be counted to make it unanimous, but that's really beside the point, too. The crystal ball belongs to 'Bama, again, and to a truly irresistible force of a defense. And after Monday night, there are no polls or computers or skeptics or combinations thereof that can take it away.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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