All signs point to Alabama cruising to another appearance in the national title game. The Crimson Tide have dominated all of their opponents so far this year but get their toughest test of 2012 against LSU this Saturday. While Alabama appears to be the clear No. 1 team, it's too early to guarantee another national title. Oregon, Kansas State, Notre Dame, Georgia and LSU are the top contenders but will any of those teams have enough to dethrone Alabama at No. 1 at the end of the year?
Kansas State, Oregon, Notre Dame or another team from the SEC: Can anyone beat Alabama?
Coach Terry Donahue, former head coach of the UCLA Bruins, and current voting member of the Legends Poll:
I think that Oregon would have the best chance to beat Alabama. I have not seen a team in the last thirty years that can run offense like Oregon. Also, Oregon's Coach Kelly has said this is the best defense that he has had while coaching in Eugene.
Coach Gene Stallings, former head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, and current voting member of the Legends Poll:
If I had to pick one of those three teams (Notre Dame, Kansas State or Oregon) to beat Alabama, it would be Notre Dame. I think they are the only one of those three teams that is physically strong enough to play against Alabama and beat them. I don't think Oregon could slow down Alabama when they have the ball.
David Fox (@DavidFox615):
The team with the best chance to knock off Alabama is a team the Crimson Tide may not face: Kansas State. The Wildcats are the only team that can match Nick Saban’s trademark preparation, intensity and attention to detail. The Wildcats won’t match Alabama in talent level, but Kansas State is sound in offense, defense and special teams. Now, I don’t know how Collin Klein would handle the physical Alabama defense, but I’d cast by lot with Klein against the Tide over a freshman quarterback at Oregon, the two-QB system at Notre Dame and Zach Mettenberger.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that Oregon is the second best team in the nation. Does that mean they are best constructed to defeat the Crimson Tide in a one-game situation with the championship on the line? No. Notre Dame, Kansas State and Florida are the three teams best built to defeat the massive front line and offensive balance that Alabama boasts. Notre Dame still has a question mark at QB that Nick Saban would exploit. Kansas State is a special story with two special leaders but isn't nearly talented enough anywhere on the roster to topple Bama. For my money, the Gators are the team best built to compete with the Tide in the trenches on defense and are physical enough along the offensive line to run the football. Unfortunately, there is a good shot the Gators and Tide won't face each other this fall. Oregon will get and deserves the right to play in the national title game but being equipped to slow down the massive Alabama running game is an entirely different issue.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven):
I don’t see any team beating Alabama this year, but I think Oregon has the best chance to knock the Crimson Tide from the No. 1 spot in the national title game. Notre Dame’s defense would give Alabama’s offense fits, but I don’t think the Fighting Irish would be able to generate many points on the Crimson Tide defense. Kansas State doesn’t beat itself, but getting Collin Klein on track against Alabama seems unlikely. LSU and Georgia won’t be easy outs, but the Tigers have struggled to generate anything on offense all year, while the Bulldogs’ offensive line would be a mismatch against the Crimson Tide’s front seven. The Ducks seem to be in the best position to challenge Alabama this year, as Chip Kelly has assembled a team complete with depth, speed and talent. Oregon’s offense can beat you in many ways, and quarterback Marcus Mariota is only going to get better. Although the defense may not rank statistically as high as Alabama’s, the Ducks are allowing 4.5 yards per play – equal to Notre Dame and South Carolina. It’s going to be hard for any team to knock off the Crimson Tide, but with a dangerous offense and a defense that’s better than the stats might indicate, Oregon would be the best matchup. Chip Kelly vs. Nick Saban. De’Anthony Thomas vs. Alabama’s defense. Talk about a heck of a (potential) matchup in Miami for the national title.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch):
I think it still has to be LSU. The Tigers have been a bit underwhelming so far this season — their three SEC wins have come by a combined nine points — but we can’t forget this team still has an elite defense and an outstanding rushing game. Alabama has been extremely impressive and no doubt deserves its No. 1 ranking, but the Crimson Tide have yet to face a great defense in 2012. I have supreme confidence in AJ McCarron, Eddie Lacy and Co., but moving the ball and scoring points against teams like Michigan and Mississippi State is one thing. Doing it against LSU, at night in Tiger Stadium, is a different animal. My pick to win this game is still Alabama, but I believe LSU has to considered the biggest threat to knock off the defending champs.
I'm guessing most of my colleagues are viewing this question in light of who Alabama will play in the BCS National Championship Game. I, however, am not convinced that the Crimson Tide won't fall before we get to that point. I'm not saying LSU will be the one to beat 'Bama this Saturday, but I'm not ready to crown Nick Saban's team as SEC champs just yet either. As it stands now, Alabama and Georgia appear to be on a collision course to play in Atlanta in December. Both still have business to attend to, but if this match up is the end result, I think the Bulldogs have the necessary ingredients - namely a physical, athletic defense that can make big plays and a veteran quarterback leading an offense that can run and pass - to beat the Crimson Tide. That said, it still will probably require a near-flawless effort on Georgia's part, and probably a lucky bounce here or there, to do so. Since discipline is not necessarily a hallmark of Mark Richt's teams, I will agree with my colleagues who say the toughest opponent Alabama will face will be in the title game in Miami Gardens in January. As good as Kansas State and Notre Dame have looked thus far, I think Oregon offers the best opponent for Alabama in that the Ducks have the same ingredients I outlined earlier and they are probably one of the few teams in the nation whose offense could provide a challenge for the Tide's defense. I for one would love to see Chip Kelly and Saban square off mano a mano to determine this season's national champion.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman):
The answer to this question is probably Oregon (if the Ducks make it) in the BCS Championship, but since we do not know if that game will happen, I’ll go with LSU in this weekend’s top matchup. The Tigers have the defense to lead LSU to another low-scoring victory like the one last year in Tuscaloosa, although the offense will needs its best effort by far just to even the time of possession. The Tigers offensive line has been rifled with key injuries this season, so it’s difficult to see LSU doing much on offense. However if Zach Mettenberger and the running game can make a few plays and keep it close until the fourth quarter, then the Death Valley crowd might work some of its famous voodoo. I’m not predicting Les Miles’ bunch to win this weekend, but the Tigers have the speed and physical potential to upset the Tide.
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