Could this group of Alabama defenders rival their counterparts from the 1992 national championship team?
Writers and analysts have made the suggestion, and defensive end Lorenzo Washington reacted.
"It is definitely something to look up to, but I am not trying to be them," Washington said. "I am trying to go out there and be the best I can be. That 1992 defense was incredible. They had so many first round picks and won the national championship. They were an amazing defense.
"That is something like, 'Man, I wish we could be like that.' But still, we want to get better at everything. I want to be that good, but still get better."
That 1992 squad that featured the likes of George Teague and Antonio Langham was the last to lead the Crimson Tide to the pinnacle of college football. It also rose to the top of nearly every statistical category and produced three shutouts, including a 17-0 win against Auburn.
The 2009 answer has All-Americans such as Terrence Cody up front, Rolando McClain and Dont'a Hightower at linebacker and Javier Arenas playing cornerback among the eight returning starters. Through 12 games last fall, the defense gained much of the credit for the program's quick rise. It also held Auburn scoreless.
But for all the attention and praise the unit has received, coach Nick Saban is there to remind every one of the last two games.
To do that, the coach points to one number: 31
It exemplifies the dueling defensive failures in the SEC championship game and Sugar Bowl. Florida and Utah each scored 31 points on the group that ranked third nationally and first in the SEC in total defense.
The 1992 defense never gave up more than 21 points and held its 13 opponents to an average of 9.3 points per game, leading the nation in total defense and rushing defense.
Before any of those numbers and rankings are approached, Saban said this group would have to come together.
"This year's team, regardless of how many players are coming back from last year's team, there is a new chemistry there," Saban said. "They are going to have to go through all the same things about how they play. We are going to play some very good competition, so it is going to be interesting to see how they respond."
There is certainly a spirit of reshaping its reputation following the two disappointing losses that closed the 2008 season. McClain harped on the renewed focus this team would have on closing strong.
Motivation won't be an excuse if the defense crumbles this fall, Washington said. There is a newfound maturity that has made a difference already.
"In the past, I feel like people had to be motivated by somebody else from the outside, like vocal leaders Rashad Johnson or somebody like that," said Washington, who played a big role in making the Tide rush defense second best nationally in 2008. "Now I feel like the motivation comes from inside. We pick ourselves up. We pick everybody up. If we are one of the best defenses, we have to play like one of the best defenses."
McClain said he also sees a difference in the mentality of the defense. When he arrived in 2007, Saban was also new at Alabama and still installing his system. There was a certain amount of growing pain to endure, but the All-American linebacker said everyone has since settled into and bought into what Saban's been preaching.
With that, history could be made this fall.
"That's one of the things I do like about Alabama — there is so much history and tradition," Washington said. "I don't want to look towards the end of the season, but if we end up being one of the best defenses in the history of Alabama, that would be something to hold in my heart. That's a pretty cool thing."