Crystal Ball Run Preseason Top 10
No. 2 – Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama in a Word: Reloading
Alabama may be without its top playmakers (Julio Jones, Mark Ingram and Greg McElroy) from last season, but Nick Saban has stockpiled talent in Tuscaloosa. It’s like old-school Bama football. Legendary Crimson Tide coach Bear Bryant would be proud.
Instead of looking at rebuilding, Saban is slotting another five- or four-star stud into openings in the starting lineup. It’s not a bad deal to turn to Trent Richardson to take over for Ingram. Or how about going with a speedster like Marquis Maze to take over for Jones at wide receiver? Not bad.
Why Alabama Will Live Up to Billing:
The Crimson Tide defense went from a potential weakness to a typical, tough Alabama unit. Scoring points on Saban’s team in 2011 will not be easy.
So the Tide might be able to rely solely on their defensive prowess to win the SEC. Just look at the respect given to Alabama’s group from SEC coaches who stockpiled Alabama defenders on the preseason All-SEC team—Josh Chapman, Dont’a Hightower, Mark Barron and Robert Lester made first team; Courtney Upshaw is on the second team while C.J. Mosley and Dre’ Kirkpatrick are third teamers.
If there were any question marks about the defense, most of them were answered in the spring.
It’s also important to remember that Nick Saban is in a category all by himself when it comes to college coaches. He’s the NCAA version of Bill Belichick. Saban’s teams are almost always better prepared, and he does a great job of recruiting stud players. Now we know why all of those Alabama fans were so excited when they first heard Saban was coming to Tuscaloosa.
The offense is also talented, led by speedy running back Trent Richardson, who averaged 6.2 yards a carry and scored six touchdowns last year.
A second BCS Championship in three years is a real possibility in 2011.
Why Alabama Will Disappoint:
It’s easy to point to the hole at quarterback that was left with Greg McElroy’s graduation. A.J. McCarron has the talent to take over the position, but Tide fans may not be patient with him.
But the biggest reason Alabama may disappoint the faithful in 2011 is because the SEC West is strong again this year. One slip up and a shot in the SEC title game may be out the window.
LSU, Arkansas and Mississippi State are all good enough to win the division, while Auburn is a rival and anything is possible in that game.
When expectations are sky high every year, sometimes the pressure becomes too much.
Key Game: LSU (Nov. 5)
The Saban Bowl is in Tuscaloosa and there’s a legitimate possibility these two teams are undefeated and ranked in the top 5.
Les Miles and Nick Saban have a mutual respect, but Miles has a chip on his shoulder when these two play. The Tigers seem to play well against Alabama, and even though it is at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Crimson Tide will need to muster enough offense to win.
Win this one and the SEC and BCS championships are not that far away.
On the Spot: A.J. McCarron, QB
Saban and the coaching staff will do their best to take pressure off the sophomore quarterback, but eventually a game is going to come down to a last-minute drive or the need to convert a first down. That’s where we’ll learn if McCarron is ready for the pressure that comes with playing quarterback at a big-time program.
It’s the SEC, so no one should be surprised if Alabama loses two games within the conference. But with that defense and a lot of talent at the skill positions on offense, the Crimson Tide will be playing for a BCS Championship.
Will ’Bama be undefeated? The talent is there, but probably not, as it seems like a season where the SEC champ is going to have a loss.
Will ’Bama win the BCS title? Not likely. The SEC’s dominance in the big game is impressive, but it has to end eventually. The college football landscape seems ripe for a championship by someone other than an SEC team (Oklahoma, Florida State or Oregon).
Best Case Scenario: 14-0, SEC champs, BCS champs
Worst Case Scenario: 10-3, Gator Bowl
Follow Crystal Ball Run on Twitter @CrystalBallRun
Follow Tom Perry on Twitter @EyeandEer