This year, the Alabama Crimson Tide will get a second chance in three seasons to defend a national championship. Will this title defense succeed whereas the 2010 version failed? That's the question that people throughout the college football community are asking about head coach Nick Saban's team.
Returning Starters: 7
The presence of a running game has generally been the cornerstone of Alabama football. Not this year, however. Star running back Trent Richardson is gone, but quarterback A.J. McCarron will be more formidable as a passer. McCarron proved himself under fire last season, and while Alabama won't run the ball the way it did last season, the Tide's passing game should be much improved, and new coordinator Doug Nussmeier should assist in that process. The key point of focus for Alabama's offense will be to use the short passing game as an extended running game and a form of ball control. Alabama used a six- and seven-yard passing game to its tight ends with great effectiveness last season, and that general approach should be very much in evidence this upcoming season.
Returning Starters: 4
College football pundits have reason to be confident about the Crimson Tide's offense; in a scenario akin to 2010, pigskin analysts are wondering how the other side of the ball will fare this fall. The question mark in Tuscaloosa this season is Alabama's defense, which soared last season and must now get production from a lot of new faces. Alabama's defense completely throttled LSU's offense in last season's BCS National Championship Game, limiting the Tigers to just five first downs, 92 total yards, and only two third-down conversions. LSU didn't move the ball past midfield in the first 52 minutes of play, failing to mount a legitimate scoring threat throughout the evening in the Louisiana Superdome. Alabama scored only one touchdown, but it didn't need more. The 21-0 shutout represented the ideal display of defensive dominance for Nick Saban's crew, a blueprint and template for the way the Tide want to play each time they take the field. This season's defense loses several quality players to the NFL, such as Courtney Upshaw, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Mark Barron (among others). However, Alabama is at a point where it generally reloads on defense instead of merely rebuilding. The defense won't be as good as last year, but it will still set a very high standard.
After Alabama won the 2009 national championship, it regressed in 2010 because its secondary got exploited by potent passing attacks. This season, following the 2011 national title, is very similar. If the Tide's secondary can stand in the ring against Tyler Wilson of Arkansas and other elite quarterbacks in the SEC, Alabama could play in the 2013 BCS title game… as the SEC champion, not as a surprising at-large selection. Will the Tide get there? Probably not. Playing at LSU and Arkansas will be tough for this team to handle. A 10-2 record is in store for this year's edition of the Tide.
Prediction: Second in SEC West behind LSU