Alabama is ranked second in the USA Today Coaches' Poll. While 'Bama is in a great position to repeat as national champions, LSU is ranked ahead of them.
Throughout the 2012 season, Alabama's opponents will all be gunning to shatter the Tide's championship hopes. A win over a top-three team is gigantic, but a win over a top-three defending national champion is so much sweeter.
While all teams will be aiming to bring the Tide down, there are few that are extreme threats; these threats are presented from least to most threatening.
Though the Aggies will be in their rookie season in the SEC, they don't come completely unprepared. The Aggies come to Tuscaloosa to challenge the Tide immediately following the brutal LSU game.
If both teams are completely healthy and playing their best football, Alabama wins this game handily. If the LSU battle causes some serious injuries, the Tide's lack of depth in 2012 could be its undoing.
Also, if Alabama beats LSU, the Tide could be looking past the Aggies toward the Iron Bowl. Texas A&M has enough talent to show Alabama how wrong it is to overlook the rookies.
Alabama should be very aware that a deep breath after the LSU game is not acceptable. The deep breath in college football comes between the conference championship game and whatever bowl game for which the team qualifies.
The Tide has the upper hand in this game almost any way you look at it.
The only advantage Michigan has over Alabama is quarterback mobility. This is not enough of an advantage to win outright, but it could be the difference between a win and a loss.
The Tide players see the internet and they watch TV. Alabama knows that it is far superior to Michigan in almost every aspect of the game.
Though the attitude from 2010 is hardly a concern, a simple attitude shift away from pure perfection would make this an extremely long game for both sides. The Tide is going to experience growing pains, and has precious little room for error.
If there is no fire in Alabama's eyes during opening kickoff on Sept. 1, this could be a very long season for Tiders nationwide.
Though this team ties for second on the list of most threatening teams, that doesn't mean that the two teams are equal.
What makes this game so threatening is that it comes so early in the season. Alabama won't be beaten up by the Michigan Wolverines, but a few dings and nagging smaller injuries could affect the Arkansas game in Week 3.
Alabama has a rough schedule, and there are a few teams that have the ability to beat Alabama when all things are considered. The Razorbacks' potent offense could pose a serious threat to Alabama.
LSU is the preseason favorite to win the national title in 2012. Despite the crippling loss to Alabama in the 2011 season's title game, LSU is expected to win again at home against the Crimson Tide in 2012.
LSU has a bye week before Alabama travels to Death Valley, and will be looking for nothing but revenge. Though the Tigers return a lot of talent to the team this season, Tyrann Mathieu will not be one of those talents.
LSU poses the biggest threat to Alabama because they are the best team that the Tide will face during the 2012 regular season. Add the bye week situation to the mix, and this game starts to look very winnable for the Tigers.
Matt Barkley returns to USC for his senior season to finish what he and his fellow Trojans set out to do years ago: win the national championship. Sanctions interfered with that plan, and these guys are seriously ready to contend for the crown.
After the transfer of Silas Redd from Penn State to USC, the Trojans have taken the shape of a truly formidable opponent. The acquisition of Redd brings more balance to the Trojans' offense.
If Alabama should make it through all the previous hurdles, the reward will be a date with one of the most capable teams in recent memory. Everyone outside the SEC will be rooting for the Trojans to take down the mighty SEC on their behalf.