Wisconsin vs. Alabama: Can the Badgers Top the Crimson Tide...in Anything?

 by Rexford Sheild

 

Oh, John Moffitt. The offensive lineman is one of the must-follow Twitter users among ex-Badgers. While the tweet no longer exists, Moffitt tweeted that the Wisconsin 2010-'11 offensive line could go toe-to-toe with the 2012-'13 Alabama offensive line. Here's what this article is not: It's not a comparison between the Wisconsin football program and Alabama's. The Crimson Tide have won three of the last four national titles while the Badgers have lost three-straight Rose Bowl. All in all, Alabama football reigns supreme in the world of college football. But hey, at least the Wisconsin faithful can say they have better academics? Instead, a comparison will be elaborated on between the 2010-11 UW offensive line and the 2012-13 Alabama offensive line, production versus production. Let's take a look at the various components to judge the validity of Moffitt's tweet.

The Players
Position Alabama Awards Wisconsin Awards
Left Tackle Cyrus Kouandijio No Post Season Awards Gabe Carimi Outland Trophy, B1G Offensive Lineman of the Year; 1st Team All-American
Left Guard Chance Warmack 1st-team All-American; 1st Team All-SEC John Moffitt 1st-team All-American
Center Barrett Jones Winner of Rimington Trophy; 1st Team All-American; 1st-Team All SEC Peter Konz All-Big Ten Honorable Mention
Right Guard Anthony Steen No Post Season Awards Kevin Zeitler All-Big Ten Honorable Mention
Right Tackle D.J. Fluker 2nd Team All-American; 1st Team All-SEC Ricky Wagner All-Big Ten Honorable Mention
Offensive Line* - - Bill Nagy All-Big Ten Honorable Mention
*Nagy was limited primarily to the Badgers "Heavy Package" in goal-line and short yardage situations

Alabama had three offensive lineman drafted in the succeeding year (2013) with Fluker and Warmack both going in the first round to the Titans and Chargers, respectively, while Jones was drafted in the fourth round by the Rams. Also, it is highly likely Kouandijio will be drafted in first round of next year's draft, considering he checked in at No. 4 on Mel Kiper's Big Board.

Wisconsin also had three offensive lineman drafted in the succeeding year (2011) with Carimi going in the first round to the Bears, Moffitt in the third round to the Seahawks and Nagy in the seventh round to the Cowboys. Additionally, Konz (Falcons), Zeitler (Bengals) and Wagner (Ravens) were all drafted after they declared for the NFL Draft. Not to mention, Travis Frederick, who redshirted during the 2010-2011 season, was also drafted this past year by the Cowboys in the first round.

 

Alabama 2012-'13

Wisconsin 2010-'11

Rushing yardage

3,185 yards

3,194 yards

Rushing attempts

570

584

Average per rush

5.6 yards/rush

5.5 yards/rush

Average per game

227.5 yards/game

245.7 yards/game

Rushing Touchdowns

37

48

Sacks allowed

23

14

Sacks allowed per game average

1.77 sacks/game

1 sack/game

# of sacks allowed per pass attempt

1 sack allowed for every 14 passes

1 sack allowed for every 20 passes

# of top-50 rush defenses faced

7

6

Alright, folks. These stats will be a doozy, but hang with me because they are critical in making the comparison for obvious reasons.  If you take a quick glance at the above statistics, it is apparent the Alabama unit was very strong as a whole, playing a large role in the running attack that accumulated 3,185 yards and 37 touchdowns. However, their 23 sacks allowed ranked tied for 46th while their sacks allowed per game average of 1.77 sacks/game ranked 54th.

Overall though, the key is breaking down how they fared against the seven top-50 rush defenses they faced, which includes: Notre Dame (3rd), LSU (9th), Arkansas (20th), Ole Miss (29th), Western Kentucky (32nd), Texas A&M (37th), Missouri (47th).

            As has been the case since former UW coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez roamed the sidelines, the offensive line paved the way for a formidable running attack that rushed for 3,194 yards coupled with an unheralded 48 touchdowns. Additionally, the individual offensive line unit held their own as well, with their sacks allowed per game average ranking 14th nationally.

Once again, the key is breaking down how the unit fared against the six top-50 defenses they faced, which includes: TCU (4th), Ohio State (5th), Iowa (7th), Arizona State (17th), Michigan State (21st), Purdue (41st).

 

Alabama

Opponent

Rushing Totals

Notre Dame

45 rushes/265 yards/2 TDs

LSU

25 rushes/166 yards/2 TDs

Arkansas

45 rushes/225 rushes/6 TDs

Ole Miss

34 rushes/125 rushes/0 TDs

Western Kentucky

31 rushes/103 yards/1 TD; six sacks allowed

Texas A&M

46 rushes/165 yards/2 TDs

Missouri

47 rushes/362 yards/6 TDs

Total Average

39 rushes/201.6 yards/2.7 TDs

Wisconsin

Opponent

Rushing Totals

TCU

46 rushes/226 yards/2 TDs

Ohio State

43 rushes/184 yards/3 TDs

Iowa

38 rushes/142 yards/3 TDs

Arizona State

42 rushes/194 yards/1 TD

Michigan State

31 rushes/165 yards/2 TDs

Purdue

39 rushes/173 yards/2 TDs

Total Average

39.8 rushes/180.7 yards/2.2 TDs

Who has the edge?

            This decision is a lot harder than what I originally expected. Obviously, with preconceived notions about the dominance of Alabama as a whole, I thought the Crimson Tide's offensive line would blow Wisconsin's offensive line out of the water. Anyway you shake it, they have been one of the catalysts in the Tide's recent stretch of unheralded success, which I took in account when determining who had the edge.

            Depth/Personnel: From top to bottom, the Badgers' depth gets the edge simply because it's hard to argue against the fact the unit had seven total players get drafted including Frederick, who didn't even see the field during the 2010-'11 season. However, on the contrary, you could argue Alabama's unit was more top-heavy, which was directly seen in the picks of Warmack and Fluker in the top 15 of this year's draft. Still, I'm giving the nod to Wisconsin.

            Offensive line statistics: I'm giving the nod again to Wisconsin because they were flat-out more proficient. Their total sacks allowed was lower (14 sacks allowed vs 23 sacks allowed) and their sacks allowed per game average was also lower (1 sack allowed/game vs 1.77 sacks allowed/game). Coupled with this, the Badgers allowed fewer sacks per pass attempt (1 sack allowed/20 passes vs 1 sack allowed/14 passes).

            Against top-50 rushing defenses: When facing a tough opponent—in this case, a top-50 rush defense—it is expected that the offensive line is to be at the top of their game and Alabama certainly was, earning them the edge in this category. In fact, the Crimson Tide dominated the Badgers, as the unit helped the tailbacks amass an average of 201.6 yards/game and 2.7 touchdowns compared to the Wisconsin o-line, which averaged 180.7 yards and 2.2 touchdowns.

            Overall: Based on team success, you obviously have to give the edge to Alabama for the simple fact that three national titles in four years is better than zero national titles in four years. However, the object of the comparison was obviously between the team's offensive line units and, if you consider the aforementioned categories, I give the overall edge to Wisconsin. If you think for even for a second I possessed any sort of bias—which you probably did—let the statistics speak for themselves. Sure, Wisconsin did not fare well against top-50 rushing defenses but you have to take into account the Badgers faced three top-10 rushing defenses compared to only two for Alabama. Moreover, the Wisconsin offensive line as a whole outperformed their counterparts from game one to game 14, which was seen in the number of sacks they allowed throughout the course of the season. Even more telling is the fact that Alabama allowed six sacks against Western Kentucky.

            So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. It is an inexact science to compare who had the better offensive line, but I took a stab in the dark to try to reveal the answer.