Alabama Football: Where the Crimson Tide Finish this Season

Alabama won the BCS Championship last season, but it was far from an easy feat. The Tide needed a lot of things to go their way after losing to LSU in the regular season – and they all did. There were three undefeated teams at the time, all of which had a legitimate chance to play in the title game. Oklahoma State lost to Iowa State, Stanford lost to Oregon and Boise State fell to TCU. This gave Alabama the bid to the championship game, despite not winning the SEC, or even their division. In their rematch against LSU for the championship, the Tide rolled, 21-0, marking their second BCS title in three seasons. For even more predictions on the Tide and much more this season, Football Free Picks is your best destination!

Nick Saban has had a magical run these past few years in Alabama. After a mediocre 7-6 finish in his first season with the Crimson Tide, Saban has led Alabama to four straight seasons with at least 10 wins, including two National Championships (2009 and 2011). After winning it all in 2009, the Crimson Tide had just 10 starters back, but they still managed to put together a winning season with a 10-3 record. 2012 seems to follow that narrative as he has only 11 starters (six offense, five defense) coming back. There’s no doubt that this team still has the talent to defend their title, but it won’t be easy with so much talent lost to the NFL.

Offense:

Alabama was known for their punishing defense last season, but don’t forget that this team posted 34.8 points per game on offense as well. They had an extremely balanced attack, averaging 214 rushing yards per game and 215 passing yards.

There is a possibility that the offense will regress in 2012, as they have to replace the best running back in college football in Trent Richardson. In his final season at Alabama, Richardson rushed for a school record 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns and caught 29 passes for another 338 yards and three scores. Eddie Lacey, Jr. finished second on the team with 674 yards and seven touchdowns and Jalston Folwer was third with 385 yards and four touchdowns. Lacey may be the primary back this fall, but he will face some stiff competition with red-shirt freshman Dee Hard and true freshman T.J. Yeldon very much capable of outplaying him.

While Alabama could miss production from their running game this season, they think junior quarterback A.J. McCarron is ready to make the next step. McCarron was solid last season, throwing for 2,634 yards and 16 touchdowns to only five picks.

The only concern with McCarron and the passing game is their need to replace all three starters at wide receivers, not to mention a dangerous option in Richardson out of the backfield. That isn’t to say Alabama won’t be able to at least match the production they got from this unit. They are expecting a huge contribution from Duron Carter (son of NFL wide out Cris Carter), who transferred from Ohio State prior to last season. They also have some experience back in juniors Kenny Bell and Kevin Norwood and a trio of very highly touted freshmen.

The one thing that has the Alabama offense confident in the upcoming season is the play of one of the nation’s top rated offensive lines. While the loss of 1st Team All-SEC center William Vlachos will sting, this unit will welcome back four starters. Barrett Jones won the Outland Award for his play at left tackle last season and could have easily been a first-round pick, but decided to come back for his senior season. The only problem is that Jones will be making the switch to center, allowing big time prospect Cyrus Kouandjio to take over at left tackle.

Defense:

Alabama had one of the top defenses in the nation last year, and possibly one of the top college football defenses in history. They held opponents to just 8.2 points per game and under 185 total yards per game. They lost a ton of talent to graduation and the NFL, and while they have reloaded with some solid players, a small drop in production has to be expected.

Up front on the defensive line Alabama should be able to match their numbers from last year. Despite the loss of 2nd Team SEC defensive tackle Josh Chapman, they do have one of the top defensive line in the SEC in Jesse Williams, who will shift inside to nose tackle after making 13 starts at the defensive end, and senior defensive end Damion Square.

The Tide are loaded with talent at linebacker, but will have to overcome the loss of two 1st Team All-Americans in Don’t’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw. They will have two of the nation’s highest rated inside linebackers in C.J. Mosely and Nico Johnson to help lessen the blow. As things have gone so far in the spring practices, Xzavier Dickson and Adrian Hubbard are the clear frontrunners to start at the outside spots. But with so much talent on this unit, it’s hard to tell who will win the job in the end.

Alabama lost some talent in the secondary and will look to try and compensate from the losses of 1st Team All-American safety Mark Barron, 1st Team All-SEC corner Dre Kirkpatrick and 2nd Team All-American corner DeQuan Menzie. They will welcome back starting free safety Robert Lester, one of the top players at his position in the SEC, and talented corner Dee Milliner, who was a 1st Team Freshman All-American in 2010.

SEC Prediction – 3rd SEC West

Talent isn’t the issue here as Alabama will try to defend their national championship, but experience may play a huge role, especially in the SEC conference. An example of this is the 2010 team after the first national title under Saban. That team was littered with talented individuals but they ended up finishing fourth in the SEC West at 5-3. What makes things even harder on Crimson Tide in 2012 is the fact that they have to face Michigan, LSU and Arkansas – all away from home.

Jack Jones is an expert handicapper that provides his analysis every week at Betfirms.com. Be sure to read more about this team with our more detailed season preview.

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