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Only three times in the last 28 games has Alabama's defense allowed more than 17 points, which stretches back to the 49-7 win over Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl at the end of the 2010 season. In 16 of those 28 games, the Crimson Tide allowed fewer than 10 points, and they've gone 34 straight games without allowing anybody to score 30 or more points against them. The last time that happened was midway through the 2010 season in a 35-21 loss to South Carolina in Columbia. It's true that this has a chance to be one of the most explosive offenses the Crimson Tide have put on the field under Nick Saban as they shoot for their third consecutive national championship, but defense has and always will be the cornerstone of this program. That's not going to change this season. Even with the loss of four players on defense to the NFL draft, Alabama still had nine defensive players named Thursday to the coaches' preseason All-SEC first, second or third teams. As defensive coordinator Kirby Smart noted a few weeks ago, there's a standard on defense at Alabama that never wavers. Really, all you need to know about that standard is that Smart said last year's defense was "not exactly up to par" to the other defenses the Tide have fielded in the Saban era. That's despite finishing first nationally in total defense, first in scoring defense, first in rushing defense and second in passing defense. What's still fresh on Smart's mind -- and Saban's mind -- are the 21 points the Alabama defense yielded to Georgia in a narrow escape in the SEC championship game (one of the Dawgs' touchdowns came on a blocked field goal) and the 29 points allowed to Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel in the November home loss to Texas A&M. "We put in a lot of work to improve on defense," Smart said. The 2011 defense remains the measuring stick under Saban. Nobody scored more than 14 points against the Tide's defense all season. Will this defense be that good? Stay tuned. But if it is, the 2013 season is likely to have a familiar ending to it.