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The Athlon Editors debate who will win the 2011 BCS National Championship.
The BCS National Champion is..?
That is the question the Athlon Editors tackle each spring when we sit down to predict the upcoming college football season. Schedules, returning starters, statistics, coaching changes, recruiting classes, head-to-head trends, swing games and conference championship games are all considered. After countless of hours of production, the 2011 Top 25 is finalized and the College Football Preseason Annual is printed. The staff predicted all 120 teams in the nation and settled on Alabama and Oklahoma as the top two.
Very few of our predictions are unanimous, and the Alabama vs. Oklahoma BCS National Championship debate was no different. So who is the top team in the nation in 2011? Here is what our editors have to say:
Note: Visit AthlonSports.com on June 6 and 7 to read all about the Tide and Boomer Sooner.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): I voted Alabama No. 1 in our predictions meeting and haven’t changed my mind. Oklahoma is obviously a very talented team that could very well win it all — we did pick the Sooners No. 2 after all — but I believe Bama’s dominant defense and outstanding running game will be what separates it from the rest of the nation. Yes, the Tide will have a first-time starter at quarterback, but just two years ago this team went 14–0 and claimed the BCS crown with first-time starter Greg McElroy running the show. There are some issues — big-play threat at wide receiver, two new starters on the defensive line — but there is a lot to like about Nick Saban’s club. Consolation Pick: Florida State Deep Sleeper: West Virginia
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): In the Oklahoma versus Alabama debate, I’ll go with the high-octane Sooners. It may seem stubborn to pick against the team from America’s toughest conference, as the SEC has won five straight national titles. However, I think the Oklahoma offense will be lethal this season with quarterback Landry Jones and All-America wide receiver Ryan Broyles leading the way. OU has playmakers at every skill position, and the defense is young but very talented. I can see the Sooners running the table in the Big 12, with their toughest contest coming in September at Florida State. Alabama should have the best defense in the nation, but their inexperience in the passing game (new quarterback/no Julio Jones) is a concern. Even though the Tide avoids Georgia and South Carolina on the schedule, going undefeated through the SEC looks almost impossible this season. It’s a tough call, but I’ll take Oklahoma as this year’s champion. Consolation Pick: Boise State Deep Sleeper: West Virginia
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Alabama – Even with a first-year starter at quarterback, it’s hard to pick against the Crimson Tide to win the national title. The defense took a few lumps last year, but starting some young and inexperienced players will pay off in 2011. Alabama should feature one of the best linebacking corps and defensive backfields in the nation. With a strong defense, the offense won’t be forced to carry the load this year. Trent Richardson is more than capable of rushing for 1,500 yards in 2011, especially behind one of the top lines in college football. When Alabama won the 2009 title, Greg McElroy was a first-year starter and the team leaned on its rushing attack and defense to win games. Although AJ McCarron or Phillip Sims are inexperienced, the Crimson Tide have shown they have a winning formula and that should work for Nick Saban’s second title in Tuscaloosa. I like Oklahoma’s offense, but I'm not sure its defense has the right pieces to win the championship, especially in the interior of the line and at cornerback. Consolation Pick: Florida State Deep Sleeper: West Virginia
Rob Doster: In a hypothetical matchup of these two college football titans, I would lean towards Saban’s crew, but that’s based more on OU’s repeated failures in BCS bowls than on the Tide’s superiority. Last year’s Fiesta Bowl win over an outmanned UConn team aside, Bob Stoops’ club has laid some embarrassing eggs on the big stage, losing its previous three BCS bowls (two by embarrassing margins), while Saban is 3-1 in bowl games as Bama boss. Consolation Pick: LSU Deep Sleeper: Miami
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden): I will take the Crimson Tide over the Crimson and Cream. The quarterback position for Alabama is an issue, but one has to think that whoever is taking snaps for Bama will be much better in Week 15 than he will be in Week 2. The collection of players in Tuscaloosa is the best in the nation, bar none, and both lines of scrimmage will be nasty – especially the offensive line, which will carry them early against Penn State, Arkansas and Florida. But in the BCS title game, the best secondary in the nation will come up big against a quarterback who has thrown 26 interceptions in two seasons. Bama’s physical ground game tops the Sooners’ high-flying aerial assault. Consolation Pick: Nebraska, Deep Sleeper: Stanford
Nathan Rush: Roll Tide... Alabama has everything in place but an established quarterback. But with the offensive arsenal Nick Saban has assembled — led by Heisman Trophy candidate running back Trent Richardson — new signal-caller AJ McCarron (or Phillip Sims) will have enough surrounding firepower and O-line protection to learn on the job and take what the defense gives him until he finds his sea legs and swagger. Plus, there should be plenty of short fields for the new QB to work with, as Kirby Smart’s 3-4 defense returns the nation’s best secondary, sledgehammer linebacker Dont’a Hightower and plenty of potential stars down low in the trenches. Expect Saban to raise the BCS crystal for the second time in three seasons; he may not smile during the trophy presentation, but it’s that same never-satisfied attitude that has rebuilt Bear’s machine in Tuscaloosa. Consolation Pick: Florida State, Deep Sleeper: South Carolina
Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie): With a dominant defense and strong running game, not only will Alabama be a cliché, but a national champion. There are too many athletes and too much determination and intensity for the Tide to be upset. Consolation pick: Virginia Tech, Deep Sleeper: Nebraska
Carey Murdock – Editor (SoonerScoop.com): I used to refer to Alabama as having a “Lincoln Log offense” during Saban’s early years in Tuscaloosa. Then Julio Jones gave them a viable threat at receiver and Mark Ingram won a Heisman Trophy. Does anybody see a Julio Jones on that roster? Defense does win championships and Alabama does have an edge in that category. But SEC championship teams usually need a major difference maker at the skill positions on offense to win a title. I just don’t see the right combination on this Alabama team to be able to overcome a very powerful Oklahoma offense. Alabama would slow down Oklahoma like few will be able to during the regular season, but Landry Jones, Ryan Broyles and a veteran offensive line have a bigger edge on the offensive side of the ball. And even though Saban has the right formula for a young or inexperienced quarterback to win a championship, you still need someone special behind center to do it. Oklahoma would win because of a bigger advantage on the offensive side of the ball, and I’m not sure this Alabama offense can lead them to an SEC title in the first place. They look kind of Lincoln Loggish again.