On Day 10 of “12 Teams in 12 Days” we go to Tuscaloosa, where I will be breaking down th University of Alabama Crimson Tide.
The Alabama Crimson Tide came into the 2010 season with big expectations.
They were coming off a national title and were the No. 1 team in the country. The Tide held that No. 1 ranking through a 5-0 start, but would then lose to South Carolina, 35-21.
They went on to fall to LSU and Auburn in a couple of heart-breakers for a 10-3 campaign overall.
Alabama welcomes back 17 starters this season and will once again be listed as one of the favorites to win not only the SEC, but a National Championship as well.
Will the team play harder now with a sense of duty to the fans and a city still trying to rebuild after the devastating tornado that killed many in April? Will there be more pressure because so many people are looking for something positive again to rally around?
The tornado and the inspirational stories that emerged in the aftermath of the crisis will make for easy pieces on the pregame shows, and of course the players and coaches will feel a sense of responsibility to not let anyone down after all the town has been through. However, it’s impossible for there to be any more pressure or any more focus on a football program than there is on Alabama, and it’s impossible for any team to be under the microscope even more. It’s the SEC: there’s pressure 24 hours a day, 365 days a year no matter what.
The Tide welcomes back seven starters from an offense that put up 35.7 points and 444 total yards/game a year ago.
They do lose some key players from that team, including QB Greg McElroy, RB Mark Ingram, and WR Julio Jones.
The offense isn’t going to be the dominant force it was two years ago, but the ground game should be terrific with Trent Richardson working behind a veteran line that gets four starters back. The passing attack might not be as explosive without Julio Jones, but Darius Hanks and Marquis Maze are good enough to balance out the attack and quarterbacks A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims have more pure talent than McElroy.
Handing it off to Trent Richardson will only go so far; A.J. McCarron, the likely starter, will be tested early and he’ll have to stretch the field. Remember, though, that the big question in 2009 was whether or not McElroy could step in and shine in place of John Parker Wilson, and everything turned out fine.
On the defesive side of the ball. Dont’a Hightower and C.J. Mosley are ultra-active, ultra-talented linebackers who should be all over the field and should crank out huge numbers as the cleaners for the run defense, while hybrid Courtney Upshaw is a dominant pass rusher who can work like an end or a fourth linebacker. The secondary is even more loaded with stars led by safety Mark Barron and corner Dre Kirkpatrick, who might be first round draft picks next year and could each be the best in the nation at their respective positions. Safety Robert Lester led the team with eight picks, the corner combination of DeQuan Menzie and Dee Milliner will be fantastic on the other side of Kirkpatrick, and top safety recruit Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix could be the team’s most talented defensive back when he first walks on to the field.
Assuming Auburn isn’t the Auburn of last year, and assuming that the Gators are still in a bit of a rebuilding mode, the slate isn’t all that bad. Going to Happy Valley to face Penn State is hardly fun, but Bama is the far better team and it should be heavily favored. In conference play, going to Gainesville is gonna be a huge challenge, but the home layup against Vanderbilt and missing South Carolina and Georgia helps. A home game against Tennessee the other battle against the East and that comes before a week off before the likely showdown for the West against LSU. November is a bear with the date with the Tigers to open, a sneaky-nasty trip to Mississippi State to follow, and then a week off against Georgia Southern before the Iron Bowl at Auburn. Last year it seemed like every team had a week off before facing the Tide, and while Ole Miss and Vanderbilt getting an extra week to prepare isn’t a big deal, LSU gets an off-week before going on the road to face the Tide.
The Crimson Tide are head and shoulders above the competition talent-wise—this could be a better team than Saban’s 2009 Tide.
They aren’t going to give an inch on defense, and their offense should be explosive, even with a new quarterback. That’s because they return one of the best offensive lines to pave the way for Richardson and have a talented receiving corps for McCarron to target.
In a power-laden SEC West….the Tide will “Roll” on to a 10-2 regular season record and miss out on the SEC title game to a slightly better and luckier Les Miles LSU team.