Alabama Football: Why Tide Has No Chance to Repeat in 2012
It’s been over 30 years since the University of Alabama football team repeated as national champions, and in a crowded SEC and even more crowded national title picture, that streak is about to continue.
But not for a lack of effort.
Prior to last season, the Crimson Tide had gone 17 years between their most recent national championships. If recent seasons are any indication, however, the gap between the Tide’s 2009 and 2011 titles may be a more accurate pace for the team’s future national title chances.
But that doesn’t mean the Tide are about to become back-to-back national champions.
Coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide will seemingly face an uphill battle in their quest for a repeat beginning in Week 1 of the 2012 season. After playing only one road game against a team ranked in the top 20 in the nation last season, the Tide will open the 2012 season against the University of Michigan.
Which means that the Tide must determine quickly who will step in on offense for Trent Richardson and Marquis Maze, last season’s rushing and receiving leaders, respectively.
Eddie Lacy, who ranked 11th in the SEC with 674 yards on just 95 carries last season, could help the Tide witness a seamless transition at the running back position. Fellow backs Jalston Fowler, T.J. Yeldon and Dee Hart may also enjoy running behind an offensive line that features the likes of Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker and Barrett Jones.
However, will the question marks at running back and wide receiver be answered in time for quarterback AJ McCarron and new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier to find success by Week 1?
Furthermore, will a defense that must replace seven starters be able to stop Denard Robinson by the time the team faces the Wolverines?
Two weeks after the Michigan matchup, the Tide must go on the road to play Arkansas, with road games against Missouri, Tennessee and LSU still on the schedule for later in the season.
Those are some difficult road games for a team that saw eight players get selected in April’s NFL Draft.
In addition to Richardson, the Crimson Tide also saw Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Dont’a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw, Josh Chapman, De’quan Menzie and Brad Smelley leave for the NFL.
If any team can replace talent quickly, it’s the Crimson Tide. However, losing three members of the team’s secondary could come into effect when playing against quarterbacks such as Tyler Wilson of Arkansas, Tyler Bray of Tennessee and James Franklin of Missouri.
Playing in the SEC West may not help matters, either.
The SEC West saw five of its six teams finish with overall records that were over .500, and saw three teams, including Alabama, win 11 games or more. The two other teams, Arkansas and LSU, will host the Tide this season.
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The Tide's national championship chances may have actually been enhanced last season when the team lost in overtime to LSU. Due to the loss, the Tide did not have to play in the SEC Championship Game, which would have presented an additional risk to the team’s title chances.
This season, not only is playing in the SEC Championship Game far from a guarantee, but so too could the team’s chances of reaching the NCAA Championship Game without having won the SEC.
Unlike last season when the Tide's schedule challenge involved getting past Penn State in an early season matchup, this season’s schedule will feature games against the SEC’s newest members, Missouri and Texas A&M.
An interesting storyline could be how well the team’s newest members on defense respond to Franklin and Missouri after playing two straight opponents in Florida Atlantic and Ole Miss who combined to go 3-21 last year.
In total, the Tide's opponents in 2012 combined to go 81-70 last season.
Alabama was three points away from potentially having an undefeated season last year, and winning the national championship. However, with increased competition on the team’s schedule, the Tide may have to play even better than last year in order to witness similar success.
Which means that a title in 2012 isn't going to happen.
Although the Tide enjoyed major success due to the growth of McCarron, and still feature a solid grouping of running backs, as well as Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley at linebacker, too many players must fill roles that they were not in last season.
Additionally, with more competition in the SEC and in the team's non-conference schedule, these players can't afford to demonstrate a slow learning curve.
However, one season may be all it takes for this grouping to find success and set themselves up for the future.
It’s been 17 years since college football had a team repeat as national champions. And there’s a good chance that Saban and Alabama will be the next team to do so.
But 2012 will not be the season.
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