Alabama Football: Are the Crimson Tide Good Enough to Go Undefeated in 2012?

Clint LambContributor IMay 23, 2012

A.J. McCarron led Alabama to a national championship in 2012 as a first-year starter.
A.J. McCarron led Alabama to a national championship in 2012 as a first-year starter.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

There are several questions surrounding the Alabama Crimson Tide's chances of going undefeated in 2012. With a Heisman Trophy finalist and top-rated overall defense in 2011, the Tide was able to go 11-1 in the regular season and go on to win a national championship over the top-rated LSU Tigers.

What makes people think the Crimson Tide can improve on an impressive 2011 national championship season and go undefeated in 2012? Talent, that is what. The Tide replace five starters on offense and seven starters on defense, but return one of the best offensive lines in the nation and a talented, deep roster as a whole for 2012.

A.J. McCarron is a year older with an entire year of starting experience to go with an offensive line that returns four out of five starters and a stable of running backs that can match any (as far as talent) in the nation. 

Eddie Lacy will be running the show (no pun intended) with Jalston Fowler, Dee Hart and the highly recruited T.J. Yeldon backing him up. Lacy (6-0, 220 lbs.) brings a combination of size, speed and his famous spin move to a Crimson Tide running game that looks to replace Heisman finalist and No. 3 overall pick to the Cleveland Browns, Trent Richardson.

Look for Folwer (6-1, 246) to come in and complement Lacy by physically wearing down defenses with his rare size and strength. Even though Hart shows extreme potential to take hold of the No. 3 running back spot after being a year removed from his season-ending knee injury, look for former 5-star running back Yeldon to be a dark horse to come in and take snaps away from both Hart and maybe even Fowler.

Even as a true freshman, Yeldon won the MVP of Alabama’s annual A-Day game in April and showed he has the ability to run both through and around defenders and bring big-play ability to an offense that could lack in that department due to the loss of Julio Jones in 2011 and Trent Richardson in 2012.

The biggest question mark that will determine if the Crimson Tide can go undefeated in 2012 revolves around the defense that loses seven out of 11 starters. Alabama’s defense in 2011 included four players that were taken in the first 35 picks in 2012 NFL draft and had six of the seven departing starters be selected at some point in the draft (Jerrell Harris was the lone departing starter not to be drafted but signed a free-agent contract with the Atlanta Falcons).

The defense will rely on the play and leadership of players such as Jesse Williams, Dee Milliner, Robert Lester and Nico Johnson to help cope with the losses of players like Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw, Dre Kirkpatrick and Mark Barron. One thing is certain: It will not be an easy task.

Out of the four previously mentioned players, three of them were named first-team All-SEC with Dre Kirkpatrick being named second-team All-SEC. That kind of production and talent is hard to overcome, but with the kind of talent that Nick Saban and company continue to bring into Tuscaloosa, nothing is impossible.

One thing working in the Tide’s favor is history. After the 2008 season, the Tide looked to replace big-time starters such as John Parker Wilson, Glen Coffee and Bobby Greenwood and were able to overcome replacing several starters and came out with a national championship in 2009 due to the emergence of stars such as Rolando McClain, Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, Mark Barron and Greg McElroy.

In 2011, the Tide had to once again replace former superstars Marcell Dareus, Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, Greg McElroy and others in order to win the 2012 BCS National Championship and were able to do so (even though there were some bumps along the way). 

If there is one thing that college football fans should know, it’s that Nick Saban does not rebuild at the University of Alabama. Saban and company reload.

Look for the Crimson Tide to make another strong run in 2012 and compete for not only a national championship, but an undefeated season as well. If the Tide’s defense can get past Michigan’s Denard Robinson (solid dual-threat option, but struggles in passing), then that might be enough time for the Alabama secondary to gain enough experience to contribute to Alabama’s push for another national championship this coming season.