Theater of Operations, Florida Vs. Alabama: Previewing Alabama's Defense

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 24: The Alabama Crimson Tide defense runs off the field after a defensive stop against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 24, 2011 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

In more ways than one, this year's match-up between the Florida Gators and the Alabama Crimson Tide is going to be all about defense. Alabama ranks second nationally in terms of points allowed per game with eight. The Gators aren't slouches either: They rank fourth fourth nationally in points allowed per game, with nine. It should be noted, however, that Alabama's defense has faced tougher competition to this point.

But the fact remains that both defenses have their fair share of All-American candidates. Both defenses have above-average talent at the defensive line and linebacker positions. The edge, then, may lie in the secondary, where Alabama has more depth and seasoning. Experience is a wonderful thing to have, isn't it?

Play No. 1: Arkansas passes for a touchdown:

Arkytd_medium

(Photo courtesy of CBS Sports)

This play is really very simple. It is also one that the Gators can have success with. The running back is simply going to run about five yards past the line of scrimmage, while taking advantage of the 'Bama defense's natural aggressiveness.

Arkytd2_medium

(Photo courtesy of CBS Sports)

The running back is now wide open. The defensive lineman, realizing too late that he is out of position (well, kind of), has no chance to get back in time. Also, note the blocking down-field by the Arkansas wide receivers. Picture perfect.

Arkytd3_medium

(Photo courtesy of CBS Sports)

After a little luck (defender closest to him has slipped), the running back now has a clear path to the end-zone.

Arkytd4_medium

(Photo courtesy of CBS Sports)

One final key block, and it is a touchdown for the Razorbacks.

Play No. 2: Alabama's interception return for a touchdown:

Bamadtd_medium

(Photo courtesy of CBS Sports)

The pass play here is to the receiver at the top of the screen. The middle receiver is going to run straight out, and the inside slot receiver is going to run over the middle. This is the type of play that really scares me with John Brantley playing quarterback.

Bamadtd2_medium

(Photo courtesy of CBS Sports)

Couple of things to note here. First, it is clear that the ball is thrown at the correct time, which is at this exact moment. Second, while the ball is thrown at the right time, it isn't nearly thrown to the correct location.

This ball needs to be thrown to the outside shoulder, because of the way the defense is aligned. It is extremely difficult to catch this pass on the inside shoulder and get the first down. If the ball is thrown to the outside shoulder, the receiver can turn right, and pick up the first down, and maybe many more yards.

Bamadtd3_medium

(Photo courtesy of CBS Sports)

Unfortunately for Arkansas, the accuracy of the throw is horrible. The ball hits the defender, flies up in the air, and is snagged by the 'Bama defense and returned for a touchdown. Yet another reason why this throw needs to be to the outside shoulder: If it is thrown there, with this accuracy, it falls incomplete.

Bamadtd4_medium

(Photo courtesy of CBS Sports)

Touchdown, Alabama.

Play No. 3: Arkansas runs the ball, a little bit:

Arkyrun_medium

(Photo courtesy of the SEC Digital Network)

Even though this is garbage time, it was really difficult to find a running play on video without having to pay for it, which, for other teams, is something that I'm unwilling to do at this point. This is a simple hand-off out of the shotgun formation to the running back, who will run between the left tackle and the left guard.

Arkyrun2_medium

(Photo courtesy of the SEC Digital Network)

The running back has a decent hole to run through because of the blocks by the linemen (in the yellow squares). He will be untouched until he passes the line of scrimmage, where there is a linebacker free.

Bamarun3_medium

(Photo courtesy of the SEC Digital Network)

This is a nice gain of about six yards. This is about as good a run as one could expect to get up the middle against the 'Bama defense.

The Alabama defense can be beat. But the only way that is going to happen is if you can take advantage of their natural aggressiveness. They are very fundamentally sound, quick, and they don't miss many tackles. The key isn't so much to create space after getting the ball, but rather already being in open space when you get the ball.

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