Alabama Crimson Tide [2011: 12-1 (7-1), Beat LSU 21-0 in BCS Title Game]
Four-Year Trend: 2008 (12-2), 2009 (14-0), 2010 (10-3), 2011 (12-1)
Notable Player: D.J. Fluker, OT. Fluker was one of the nation’s top recruits in 2009. He defines “freakish athleticism” at 6’6″ 335lbs. After a redshirt season and two solid ones, Alabama will be looking for Fluker to take that next step in his progression and manhandle SEC linemen at right tackle. An All-American caliber year could see him be chosen in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft.
Top Newcomers: Deion Belue (CB), Landon Collins (S), Eddie Williams (ATH), T.J. Yeldon (RB)
Why We Like Them: Consistent excellence. Nick Saban brings in the nation’s best talent, with four of the past five No. 1 overall recruiting classes. He develops and deploys that talent better than any coach in the country. Despite losing NFL-ready seniors on a yearly basis, the Tide’s stable, self-replicating system rolls on. They have finished in the top six in SRS every year since 2008. Alabama should field another top-five defense and a domineering offensive line anchored by returning All-American Barrett Jones (who may be only the fourth best NFL prospect in that unit). A.J. McCarron returns, as does some depth at running back.
Why We’re Concerned: Alabama must replace six starters on defense, four of them were among the first 35 players picked in the 2012 NFL Draft. That said, the Tide are reloading, not rebuilding. The linebacker corps is rife with underclassmen drawing comparisons to Courtney Upshaw. They have players who can step right up in the secondary. The one sore spot could be defensive tackle, a crucial though unheralded position in Saban’s 3-4 scheme. Alabama lost its experienced tandem from last season. Starter Jesse Williams looks to be an absolute beast, but there is little depth behind him.
Circle This Game: Alabama at LSU [Nov. 3] These teams met in the “Game of the Century” last season followed by the “Rematch of the Century” in the BCS Title Game. Those bored by the defensive standoff could be disappointed. The clash of two defenses could again decide the BCS champion.
Best-Case Scenario: Alabama’s defense transitions seamlessly with new personnel. A.J. McCarron assumes a leadership role. The Tide beat Michigan, win tough road games at LSU and Arkansas, roll through the SEC undefeated and enter the BCS Title Game as favorites.
Worst-Case Scenario: A repeat of 2010. The defense does not entirely gel. The offense suffers without Trent Richardson’s explosiveness. Alabama suffers a rash of injuries and drops a few tough conference games on the road to finish 9-3, and unload on some unfortunate Big Ten team in a second-tier bowl game.
Legacy: Alabama’s 2009 freshmen are playing to become the first four-year class to win three national titles in four years since Notre Dame’s 1946 freshmen.
Projected Bowl: BCS Title Game
[Photo via Presswire]
25. Kansas State 24. Virginia Tech 23. Clemson 22. Boise State 21. Stanford 20. Michigan State 19. Notre Dame 18. Nebraska 17. Oklahoma State 16. Wisconsin15. TCU14. Florida 13. West Virginia 12. Georgia 11. Texas 10. Arkansas 9. Michigan8. Ohio State 7. Florida State 6. South Carolina 5. Oklahoma 4. Oregon 3. LSU 2. USC