Commentary

Alabama's overrated pass defense

Arkansas and its elite passing game are well-equipped to expose the Tide's flaws

Updated: September 22, 2011, 12:52 PM ET
By KC Joyner | ESPN Insider
Mark BarronKevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesMark Barron and the Alabama D will need their best effort to stop Tyler Wilson and the Razorbacks.

One of the things that made Muhammad Ali the greatest boxer of all time was his ability to adapt his skills to his next opponent.

When Ali faced a pure boxer, he would match his opponent move for move in the sweet science, knowing this would cause him to underrate Ali's power punches, which would be unleashed at the most opportune moment.

In matchups against the most feared sluggers, Ali would manufacture psychological edges such as the "Ali, Boom-ba-yay" chant (translation: "Ali, kill him") that he got the Kinshasa, Zaire, crowd to use against George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle.

These techniques made Ali nearly unbeatable against every foe except one: Ken Norton. Norton did not have Ali's skill level, but he had an unorthodox boxing style that Ali was unable to effectively adapt to, leading Norton to a victory in their first fight.

Norton exploited specific weaknesses and just wasn't a good matchup for Ali. This weekend, the Alabama Crimson Tide defense may find itself in Ali's shoes against the Arkansas Razorbacks.

At some level, the Alabama defense seems impenetrable. Last year it ranked tied for third in FBS in points allowed, 10th in rushing yards per game allowed, sixth in opponent's passer rating allowed and tied for fifth in overall yards per play allowed.

With nine returning starters -- five of whom made the preseason All-SEC first team -- it seems the Crimson Tide would match up well against anyone.

As impressive as the numbers were last year, a review of the tape and metrics indicates the Alabama defense is not as strong as some are making it out to be, and actually does have some significant weaknesses that Arkansas is particularly well-positioned to exploit.