Alabama Football: Can the Crimson Tide Repeat?

Nick Saban has the Crimson Tide back in the hunt for the national title.

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 3 Alabama. The Crimson Tide are the defending national champions, but suffered some key losses. Nick Saban has recruited well, so Alabama shouldn't suffer too much in the win column.

Can Alabama Repeat or Will it Revert Back to its 2010 Record?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
The answer in the end may be neither, though Alabama will be in the national title race all season. Alabama looks much closer to playing for a second consecutive title than “slipping” to 10-3 as the Tide did in 2010 after the 2009 national title. That defense was stocked with talent (Marcel Dareus, Courtney Upshaw, Dont’a Hightower, Dre Kirkpatrick) but not experience (one starter). Alabama is restocking its defense again this season, but the Tide at least have four starters back. It’s going to be unreasonable to expect Alabama to approach the defensive dominance of 2011, but there’s no way it’s going to drop off much. Even the 2010 defense finished in the top five. As for the offense, what we saw out of A.J. McCarron against LSU in the national title game gives me reason to believe it will be fine. The Tide won’t have the centerpiece of Trent Richardson, but I could see the offense being more balanced between run and pass and even within the run game with Eddie Lacy and Dee Hart splitting carries. On top of that, the Tide will be running its offense behind perhaps the best line in the SEC.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
My current personal pick to win the 2012 BCS National Championship is the Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama has the best head coach in the nation, and after two national titles in three years, has taken over as the top program in the nation.  Will this defense be as historically dominate as last year's group? Of course not. But Bama isn't hurting for athletes and Saban will insert a plethora of prep All-Americans into starring roles with relative ease. Even with Michigan and Arkansas on the schedule in the first month, the Tide should have little trouble breaking in new starters on that side of the ball. Expect former four- and five-star recruits like Trey DePriest, Adrian Hubbard, C.J. Mosley, Dee Milliner and Xzavier Dickson to be plenty capable of getting stops.

What will make this team dangerous, however, is the offense. Even without Trent Richardson and William Vlachos, the Crimson Tide should feature what could be the top running game in the nation. Saban has the best offensive line in the country and a deep and talented backfield to lean on once again. Saban also has a second-year quarterback in A.J McCarron who earned BCS national title game MVP honors after finishing the year as the SEC's most accurate passer (66.8%) as a sophomore. With the addition of speed and explosiveness to the receiving corps, Alabama's offense has a chance to be dramatically more dynamic in 2012. A truly scary thought considering how strong the defense should be once again.

The solid offenses Bama will face — Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and the Wolverines — simply do not match-up with the Crimson Tide on the defensive side of the ball. Saban's team will dominate the line of scrimmage against those teams. Auburn and Mississippi State, who should be strong at the point of attach, must visit The Capstone and don't have enough offensive firepower to scare too many Crimson Tiders. That leaves the trip to Baton Rouge on November 3 as this year's Game of the Century. But until proven otherwise, I will take the defending national champions to repeat — and make it a cool seven straight titles for the SEC.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
As long as Nick Saban is roaming the sidelines in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide will be one of the top contenders for the national title every year. Despite the loss of 12 starters, I expect Alabama will end the year as one of the top four teams in the nation and not see a repeat of the 10-3 record in 2010.

With linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont’a Hightower, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and safety Mark Barron departing, it’s going to be very difficult for the Alabama defense to repeat last season’s No. 1 ranking in total defense. However, the cupboard is far from bare. The line needs to find a replacement for nose guard Josh Chapman, but Jesse Williams and Damion Square form a solid combination up front. The linebacking corps needs to be revamped, but Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley are solid, while Xzavier Dickson, Adrian Hubbard and Trey DePriest are future stars. Replacing Kirkpatrick won’t be easy, but Dee Milliner is a solid corner, with John Fulton and junior college recruits Deion Belue and Travell Dixon filling out depth in the secondary. It’s unfair to expect a similar statistical year, but this defense will still rank among the top 10 nationally.

While the defense could take a step back, the offense is ready to breakout. Quarterback AJ McCarron is coming off a standout performance in the National Championship and while his receivers are young, there’s a lot of talent waiting to step up in 2012. Trent Richardson will be missed, but Eddie Lacy, Dee Hart and T.J. Yeldon are more than capable of carrying the load on the ground. Even with the departure of center William Vlachos, the offensive line remains one of the best in the nation.

Although this Alabama team has a handful of question marks to address, I think the Crimson Tide will only lose one game in 2012.  

Mark Ross
Alabama should at the very least be in a position to have a chance at two national titles in a row considering the fact that the winner of the BCS National Championship Game has come from the SEC in each of the past six years. The bigger question is this: is this season's Crimson Tide team capable of doing what last year's team didn't - win the SEC Championship?

It's entirely possible that we could have another national title match up that features two teams from the same conference, but for the sake of argument, I am going to call that the exception rather than the rule. To that end, the clearest path for Alabama to take to have a chance at consecutive national titles is to win the SEC crown, which is what the 2009 team did.

Of course winning college football's toughest conference is easier said than done. Four different teams have been crowned SEC champion the past six years - Alabama, Auburn, Florida and LSU. The Gators and Tigers are the only ones to have won it twice during this span. Although it should be pointed out that last year's LSU team is the only team to not take home both the SEC and national titles during this stretch, right 'Bama fans?

That said, I think it's a rather tall order to expect the 2012 Crimson Tide to follow in the footsteps of its predecessor, if you will. For one, NIck Saban lost quite a bit of talent on both sides of the ball as evidenced by the five players who were taken in the first 35 picks of April's NFL Draft. Don't get me wrong, the cupboard's certainly not bare by any stretch, but there will be a lot of new faces in starting roles this fall and I think it's a stretch to not expect some sort of drop off for both the offensive and defensive units.

That's not to say that Alabama won't be a top 10 or even top 5 team by season's end, but in a stacked SEC that includes other national title contenders like LSU and Georgia, and perhaps even Arkansas, not to mention newcomers Missouri and Texas A&M, a dip in offensive production and defensive strength, even if it's just a slight one, may end up being enough to keep Alabama out of the SEC title game and more than likely, the national championship hunt. Besides, the difference between 'Bama's 2011 and '10 seasons in terms of wins is just two. Is a 10-win season and a January bowl win really all that bad?

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I think the 2010 team is a good comparison. The Crimson Tide should be right back in the hunt for another national title because of a scary talent base, but they did lose some major talent to the pros. When you have five of the first 35 picks in the NFL Draft (Trent Richardson, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw), plus three other players selected, there has to be some effect. The defense still has a ton of ability, but there is no way it will be as dominant as the 2011 group that finished No. 1 nationally in pass defense, run defense, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense and of course, total defense.

Alabama’s recruiting and coaching will still produce a top defensive unit, and the offense has a chance to be solid as well. A quality stable of running backs and an efficient quarterback will be led by the best offensive line in the country. If AJ McCarron finds some weapons on the outside, the Tide will have a shot to win every game. While it’s difficult to see Bama claiming a third national title in four years, a double-digit win season looks like a certainty as Nick Saban reloads in Tuscaloosa.

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