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Success for Rest of Alabama's Season Could Come Down to Defense

Despite some mishaps along the way, Alabama's defense has quietly put together an impressive season; and it will be key down the stretch.

It’s not a done deal yet, but more than likely Alabama will play Georgia in the SEC Championship Game in December.

And when that officially happens, you can bet Georgia will be favored to win the matchup in Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Atlanta.

The reason is simple. Georgia’s defense is the best in the country. It’s not even close. The Bulldogs have allowed just seven touchdowns through 10 games.

And running on the Bulldogs? Forget it. Teams average about 78 yards a game on the ground. Just three teams topped the 100-yard mark.

All signs point to Alabama having to play superior offense to have a chance against top-ranked Georgia.

But maybe beating Georgia hinges on the Crimson Tide defense. No one will argue the 2021 defense resembles any of the top-ranked Alabama defenses of the recent past. But Alabama has quietly become a solid unit.

Georgia may be hard to run against and ranked No. 2 in the country, but Alabama is right there at No. 3 (81 yards allowed per game). Georgia is No. 1 in scoring defense (7.6 points a game), but Alabama is no slouch with its 18 points allowed per game.

Then there is total defense. Georgia’s No. 2 in the nation behind Wisconsin. But there is Alabama again, nipping at the Bulldogs’ heels at No. 5.

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The reason Alabama gets a bad rap on defense is because when they make mistakes, they make ‘em big. Tennessee scored a couple of times courtesy of poor execution by Alabama. Texas A&M made the Crimson Tide pay several times on defensive busts. Florida did, too.

Still, Alabama is playing well, particularly the last two games. Granted, the last game was against New Mexico State, but the defense has cleaned up its act and minimized errors.

“We have focused on the small details and not just going through the motions,” Alabama defensive back Jalyn Armour-Davis said. “We understand we had a couple of good games and a couple of good plays...but everything that’s been done is now in the past. It’s about what we do going forward.”

It’s taken more than half a season, but Alabama has finally found a rhythm. The defensive line is keeping opponents’ run game at bay, the defensive backs are limiting explosive plays, and the linebackers are putting pressure on the quarterback.

Namely, Will Anderson is applying the pressure. He is the face of the 2021 defense. His 12.5 sacks and 23 tackles for loss lead the nation.

He’s just a sophomore, but plays like a seasoned veteran.

“With experience I’ve matured a lot more,” Anderson said. “I feel I’m moving past that phase where I’m not a young guy anymore. I know what to expect, I have the experiences and I can help other people around me now.”

It's all coming together at the right time. With two games left (Arkansas, Auburn) there is still much room for improvement. And the last time Alabama was an underdog was against Georgia in 2015. That resulted in a runaway win for Alabama.

“We are starting to come together as a group, not as just a football team, but off the field,” Armour-Davis said. “We have been performing well, but we need to continue to perform well.”