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Will Nick Saban lead Alabama to another national championship?
With the first half of the season in the books, it's time to evaluate the preseason picks and make a few changes. Athlon's predicted a LSU-USC showdown in August but things have changed over the last seven weeks.
2012 Midseason Predictions: Who Plays for the National Title?
Coach Gene Stallings, former head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, and current voting member of the Legends Poll:
I would say it would be Alabama and Oregon to play in the Championship game. I think Alabama is the best team in the country. They can run the football. Alabama has three or four good running backs. The quarterback is getting better and better. Defensively, they play very sound and don't miss tackles. Their kicking game all around is good. They've got lots of depth. I don't see any weaknesses.
Coach Dick MacPherson, former head coach of the Syracuse Orange, and current voting member of the Legends Poll:
Alabama and who ... that is my answer. Who is that other team going to be ... probably Oregon. Oregon has a great scheme and do a really good coaching but I would give the edge to Alabama because of Coach Saban. He can solve problems other teams can't. Plus, I think talent-wise Alabama has more than Oregon.
David Fox (@DavidFox615): Oregon vs. Alabama
I started with Oregon and South Carolina in the beginning of the season, and, boy, did that look good after the Gamecocks’ win over Georgia. I still think South Carolina’s going to win the SEC East, but I’m going to switch out South Carolina for Alabama in the title game. The Tide have more than answered questions about the new starters on defense. This program is on a similar run of invincibility we saw out of USC this decade. Oregon will benefit this season from not playing a challenging nonconference game and will have plenty of time to make up ground in the BCS standings. The Pac-12 is deeper than we thought at the start of the season -- Arizona State, Oregon State and Stanford will be tougher outs than perhaps we thought -- but the top challenger, USC, doesn’t look like a title contender at this point.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Oregon vs. Alabama
I had Alabama over Oregon in the preseason and I have seen nothing over the first seven weeks to change my mind. In fact, those are the best two teams I have seen thus far, only upping my confidence in the Crimson Tide-Ducks championship bout in Miami Gardens. The Ducks offense is well-known but the defense is the best Chip Kelly has had in Eugene and it has been making big plays of its own. Meanwhile, Alabama has abused any and all takers in demoralizing fashion. I don't give Oregon too much of a chance to beat Alabama in a national title setting but it would be fun to see the high-flying Ducks attack go up against a spread-loathing Nick Saban with a chance at immortality.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Oregon vs. Alabama
My preseason pick was Alabama-USC, but I’m going to make a slight change at the midpoint of the season. I still like Alabama to finish unbeaten and play for the national championship, but I will switch USC for Oregon. I think the Ducks could lose their Nov. 3 matchup to the Trojans but still play for the BCS title, especially if these two teams rematch in the Pac-12 title game. Even though Oregon had to replace its starting quarterback, the offense continues to fire on all cylinders, especially with Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas headlining one of the nation’s top running back corps. Although the defense doesn’t statistically rank near Alabama, the Ducks are registering 2.8 sacks per game and have forced 17 turnovers. Also, Oregon is allowing only 4.6 yards per play, which would place it fifth in the SEC. If these two teams met in Miami for the national title, I’d pick the Crimson Tide to win, but I’d like to see what Oregon’s offense can do against Nick Saban’s defense.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): Oregon vs. Alabama
I’m not really going on a limb here, but I’ll take Alabama and Oregon to meet in the BCS Championship Game. The Crimson Tide have been dominant on defense and more than good enough on offense through the first half of the season. Assuming AJ McCarron’s knee doesn’t become an issue, I just don’t see this team losing a game. The trip to LSU will be difficult, and the opponent in the SEC title game will be formidable, but Bama will be the better team in each contest. Oregon has more hurdles to climb — including road trips to Arizona State, USC, Cal and Oregon State — but I believe the Ducks are the most complete team in the Pac-12. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Oregon stub its toe once in the regular season and still reach the BCS title game (assuming Notre Dame doesn’t get in the way.
Mark Ross: Oregon vs. Oklahoma
I am sure this is probably going to surprise some people, including my own colleagues, since Oklahoma came in at No. 9 in the initial BCS standings and has already lost a game. But hear me out. In my opinion, Oregon has the clearest path to the BCS Championship Game as the Ducks are undefeated, No. 3 in the BCS standings and in control of their own destiny. Provided they take care of business against USC, most likely twice, and can defeat a surprising Oregon State team in The Civil War, Oregon will be in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Jan. 7. I would even go so far to say that even if the Trojans were to beat the Ducks in the regular season, as long as Chip Kelly's team returned the favor in the Pac-12 title game, they will still get their chance at a national title. As far as Oregon's opponent goes, I'm leaning towards Oklahoma because I think, at least for this season, not having a conference championship game will help the Sooners. They still have several tough games remaining on their schedule, most notably an Oct. 27 visit from Notre Dame and a trip to Morgantown to play West Virginia on Nov. 17, but I think Bob Stoops has his team peaking at the right time and they will navigate the rest of their schedule undefeated. I also think the SEC is going to continue to beat itself up, leaving you with a situation where the eventual conference champion will have at least one loss, if not more. Under this scenario, I think there will be enough changes in the polls, computer rankings, etc. that in the end the BCS standings will have Oregon at No. 1 and Oklahoma at No. 2. Once these two get to south Florida and play each other in January, I like Kelly and the Ducks to do what they weren't able to two years ago - take the crystal football back to Eugene. BCS Champion: Oregon 31, Oklahoma 24
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): Oregon vs. Alabama
I think you have to project Alabama and Oregon at this point, although USC and LSU still have a good shot to get to the title game. It is difficult for me to project anyone from the Big 12, even though Kansas State would be a popular choice for many voters. Notre Dame still has tough road contests against Oklahoma and USC, and unbeaten SEC clubs will knock each other off as the season progresses. Mark it down fans: November 3. That’s when the Crimson Tide travels to Baton Rouge, and when the Ducks head south to face USC. Alabama has been so dominant in 2012, but some forget that Les Miles’ bunch did win the SEC last year. Chip Kelly’s crew was derailed by the Trojans last season but appears to be the better team with its usual high-octane offense and an underrated defense. While the Tide and Ducks could slip, they are definitely the top two candidates at the midseason point to play in Miami in January.
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