Bowl Blitz Invitational Special: Alabama’s Road to the BCS National Championship

One of the more rewarding things about starting up STAT BOX STORIES and the BOWL BLITZ INVITATIONAL has been the incredible response from guest contributors who had no true motivation–outside of playing the games and donating time to the cause–to participate.  Eric Veneziano has taken this dedication to a whole new level, not only contributing the most guest entries of any outside contributor, but also setting up an Online Dynasty running through the 2011-2012 college football season to see if he could find a way to set up the Alabama Crimson Tide and LSU Tigers in the BCS National Championship game; even though the SEC rivals would find it extra difficult to end up in the title game.  Believe it or not, they did.  Here’s the first part of how that ended up being so, chronicling the season of Alabama:

Coming into the season Alabama was a little bit of a mystery.  They carried a high preseason ranking but had to replace a number of key positions on the offense and 3 leaders at quarterback, halfback and wide receiver.  Can the defense that returned a number of starters carry them early on until the offense found it’s rhythm,  and can the new starting half back continue where he showed glimpses of being great last season?

The first test of the season sat at Week 2 as the Crimson Tide traveled to Happy Valley to take on a Top 25 Penn State team.  The game did not disappoint as both defenses came to play.  Neither team was able to get a score until Penn State kicked a field goal late into the 3rd.  The Tide put together a running game late into the 4th and did answer with 10 unanswered points and passed it’s first test of the young season.

As was predicted the defense was the strong part of the team and showed their dominance early on in the season.  After the Week 2 PSU game they shut out 3 of their next 6 opponents, including a 58-0 beating of rival Florida.  The defense was stingy on the ground, consistently giving up less than 50 yards per game.  They were also a turnover machine averaging a fumble recovery a game and finishing the season with 13.  Even though the defense was racking up turnovers and shutting teams down, they weren’t a flashy explosive defense.  Not many of their turnovers were game changing, even though they were valuable in shutting down their opponents and setting up their offense.

The lone test for the Tide in the early part of the season, leading up to the match-up against LSU was a Week 6 match-up against Vanderbilt.  Maybe the team overlooked the Vandals after a 58 point victory over Florida, but Vanderbilt had come to play.  This game reminded me of two heavy weight fighters slugging it out in the middle of the ring. The scoring went back and forth all the way through the 3rd quarter as it ended 28 -28 with the teams trading scores the whole way.  Alabama stepped up though in the 4th and scored a touchdown and the defense put the clamps on the Vandals in the 4th to preserve a victory and remain undefeated.

Coming into the #1 vs #2 match-up with LSU the Tide were on a high note only giving up 3 points in its last two games and the offense was clicking.  They seemed though to hit a wall against LSU and even though the defense lived up to its hype it couldn’t do enough to shut down LSU.  Both teams slugged it out and LSU added an interception for a TD in the closing seconds to win 20-0.  The loss dropped Alabama to #5 behind undefeated Boise State and Utah and a 1-loss Michigan State team.

Alabama needed some help the rest of the way out to get back to the title game and needed to take care of their own business.  Their first test would show up the very next week against Mississippi State.  The Tide looked to be in control of things early, recording a safety and taking a 16-7 lead into the 4th.  With a defense that hadn’t given up a 4th quarter point all year (7 coming from the INT return against LSU) and outscoring opponents 65-0 in the 4th the game seemed to be all wrapped up.  MSU seemed to have other plans and scored 14 on the Tide defense and pulled the game to within two points.  The Tide defense did step up late in the game and stopped two Bulldog drives with turnovers in the final minutes of the game to get back on the winning track.

The Tide finished up the season with two shutouts of FCS Southwest and Auburn and got some help in Week 12 and 15 as Utah and Boise State lost and moved the Tide up to #3 behind Michigan State.  Neither Michigan State or Alabama, even though highly ranked, had the benefit of playing in a conference title game.  After Conference Championship week, the BCS formula did move Alabama above Michigan State and put them into the title game and set up a rematch with #1 LSU.

Even though the defense seemed to be the strong unit coming into the season, the offense also was able to establish itself as a very good unit.  QB #10 passed for 2101 with 20 TDs, HB #3 ran for 1405 averaging 6.1 yards/carry with 18 TDs (finishing 3rd in the Heisman voting) while HB #42 added 792 yards and 6 TDs.  Two players had over 30 catches with WR #4 and TE #89 with 36 and 32 respectively and added 554 and 458 yards.

But the defense was definitely the star of the season shutting out 5 opponents and holding another two to just 3 points.  The also ranked 1st in Total Yards, Pass Yards, Rush Yards, Points and Fumbles.  They were also #1 in Defensive Red Zone Attempts, Red Zone TDs and 2nd behind LSU in Red Zone FGs and Red Zone Conversion %.

Alabama finished with 5 1st team All Americans, 2 2nd Team All Americans and 3 Freshman All Americans.  Also HB #3 took home the Doak Walker award with LE #94 taking home the Lombardi and MLB #30 brought home the LB of the year award with LB #41 finishing 2nd.

That’s how the Crimson Tide of Alabama found their way to the 2012 BCS National Championship game; find out how it all ends tomorrow here at STAT BOX STORIES when the BOWL BLITZ INVITATIONAL comes to a close with the final game of the college football season!

Guest Author Bio:

Eric Veneziano (PS3 ID: psuexv) is a long time gamer dating back to Double Dribble, NES Playaction Football and Baseball Stars and can actually go back to the Atari 2600 and Homerun and Super Challenge Football (love the unique names). He currently spends his time playing NCAA Football, Tiger Woods and NHL, having stepped away from Madden for awhile. He claims not to say many interesting things, but he is on Twitter at @psuexv.

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