How Much is Shutting Down Denard Robinson Worth?

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Alabama and Notre Dame got much praise for shutting down Denard Robinson, but how much do they deserve? And just how good is Alabama?

Denard Robinson had a miserable game against Notre Dame on Saturday. He turned it over five times on four interceptions and and a lost fumble. His passing efficiency was an atrocious 69.1, and he managed just 3.5 yards per carry.

Understandably, the Irish defense got a lot of credit for stopping this superlative player. I'm just wondering at this point how much it should have gotten.

Robinson has a history of not showing up well against good defenses. Last year, he uncorked a passing efficiency of 86 with 2.3 YPC against Michigan State and managed a PE of 111.6 and 1.0 YPC against Virginia Tech. He put up a passing efficiency of 85 against Ohio State the previous year. He really struggles against great defenses, and it has gotten worse under Al Borges's system that is less suited to his talents.

You probably guessed three paragraphs ago where this is going. Michigan is easily the best team that Alabama has faced so far. Arkansas was supposed to be a challenge, but the Razorbacks had no shot without Tyler Wilson and basically quit in the second half. WKU is pretty good by WKU standards, but Michigan is about it.

Robinson just can't carry an offense by himself against a great defense. He also didn't have his best running back Fitzgerald Toussaint with him for the opener against the Tide. It is entirely possible that we can't take as much away from that win over Michigan as we'd like to. UM is no longer ranked, after all, and wins over unranked teams are to be taken with a grain of salt.

We may not know precisely how good Bama is even by the end of the season. Only two teams on the slate, past or future, are currently ranked: Mississippi State and LSU. Among them, only LSU seems a lock to finish the year ranked. Michigan might find its way back into the top 25, but it might not. Texas A&M might get there, but we still don't know much about that team either. Tennessee and Missouri out of the East don't figure to end up ranked the way things are looking. It's very possible that, by the standard of the poll of the day, a hypothetical Bama appearance in Atlanta would be only the second game the Tide played against a ranked team all year.

This is mostly all nitpicking, of course. Alabama has looked about as good as a team can look, it's not the team's fault if Michigan ends up mediocre, and it can only play the teams it has on the slate. It's just a weird situation to be in. "They can only play the teams on the schedule" is the classic line that gets used for teams like Boise State, not SEC titans.

So how much credit should a defense get for shutting down Denard Robinson? Definitely some, because he does tend to torch bad ones. I just don't know for sure, and that's the same answer to the question of precisely how good Bama is through four weeks. But, that's why we play the other eight games.

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