It’s time to start passing out the report cards for the 2013 season, and Alabama is up first.
For all the grumbling in and around Tuscaloosa this season regarding the offense, Alabama was one of three teams in the SEC to average more than 200 rushing yards and 200 passing yards per game. The other two were LSU and Missouri. Alabama also scored more than 30 points in 10 of its 13 games, with T.J. Yeldon leading the league in rushing yards in SEC games and AJ McCarron ranking third in the SEC in passing efficiency. So it was far from a disaster. However, there was too much inconsistency offensively to suit Nick Saban, particularly up front, and it all unraveled in the Allstate Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma with the five turnovers.
Let's face it. Alabama's defensive standards are dizzying. The Crimson Tide finished fourth nationally in scoring defense (13.9 points per game) and fifth nationally in total defense (286.5 yards per game). For most programs, those are "A" numbers. But there were also more glitches than usual. The Crimson Tide struggled at cornerback with youth and inconsistency and were vulnerable against the pass most of the season. They were shredded by Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel for 42 points and 628 yards in an early-season win over the Aggies and gave up 348 passing yards and four touchdown passes to Oklahoma's Trevor Knight in the bowl loss. It was a good Alabama defense, but not a great one.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-
Even though Christion Jones would make decisions sometimes that were questionable at best, he was still one of the most dangerous return men in the league. He had two punt returns for touchdowns and one kickoff return for a touchdown. Of course, what everybody will remember about this season for Alabama was the kick-six that won it for Auburn. It was one of four missed or blocked field goals by the Crimson Tide in that 34-28 loss. On the bright side, punter Cody Mandell was excellent and finished second in the league with a 47.1-yard average.
The grading scale is always a little tougher when you've won consecutive national championships. While 11 wins is never anything to sniff at, even at Alabama, the Crimson Tide failed to win their own division and ended the season with back-to-back losses for the first time since the end of the 2008 season. In most cases, it's a season that would still qualify as a solid "B." But with the schedule being one of the cushier ones in the league, that takes the Tide's grade down a notch.