Alabama Football: Will the Tide's Preseason Top 5 Ranking Help or Hurt?

Jonathan McDanalContributor IIIFebruary 19, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 09:  A fan of the Alabama Crimson Tide shows the word fourteen written on his hands during the 2012 Allstate BCS National Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 9, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

During the BCS era, no team has ever successfully defended its national title. Florida (2006, 2008) and Alabama (2009, 2011) have come the closest, but two wins in three years is still not repeating.

Alabama lost a LOT of talent to the NFL after the 2009 season, but still entered the 2010 season as the unanimous favorite for the national championship. Even with a young defense, it was assumed that McElroy could cover up the defensive youth until they grew up.

McElroy ended the 2010 season with a bludgeoning of Michigan State in the Capital One bowl to bring Alabama to an overall record of 10-3. Not bad at all, mind you, but not a repeat. The combination of youth and entitlement (see allusion to Mark Ingram's comment) killed the Tide's hopes for a repeat.

The Tide will enter the 2012 season as a top-five team following the annual loss of talent to the NFL. The question is, what will that do to the season? Should the fans expect a simple BCS Bowl bid, or is there a legitimate shot at a second-straight title run?

Alabama returns a veteran offensive line that will win battle after battle in the trenches, where games are won or lost in the SEC. This means that the offense has a legitimate chance of making the defensive miscues negligible. That is the good news.

The bad news is that the defense is taking a big (but not huge) offseason hit, as the Tide lost six defensive starters to the graduation/NFL combo. This could make for a rough early showing for the Tide in 2012, especially when they have to face Michigan and Arkansas in the first three games of the season.

Here are the reasons why I feel the Tide will have a better season than 2010:

1) The Tide lost fewer players this year than in 2010.

2) The Tide will not be ranked as high as in 2010.

3) The Tide was not undefeated in 2011.

4) Seniors on the roster were in Tuscaloosa during both the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Those four reasons give Tide fans hope. Alabama already knows it's not invincible because of the OT loss to LSU last season, so there should be less complacency. The team knows it has to earn its way to the top instead of inheriting the honor, so they will work just as hard as they did in 2011.

The Tide's loss of personnel doesn't cut as deep this year as it did in 2011, so the mistakes that are made should cost less in terms of victories. Lastly, the seniors on the team that saw 2009 and 2010 unfold will squelch any airs of overconfidence as soon as they arise.

The high ranking should help the Tide. Plus, being ranked lower than LSU (preseason) should be all the motivation the Crimson Tide need to fuel a beastly performance in 2012.