Alabama Football: Power Ranking Offenses Crimson Tide Will Battle in 2012
Power ranking the 12 offenses that the Tide will face is a fairly straightforward task. There are vast differences between each of them.
Defense wins championships, but only if the offense can put points on the scoreboard. Who does that best on the Tide's schedule? Who does it the worst?
While the best and worst may be unsurprising to many, there are some surprises in the middle. Without any more delay, here are the 12 offenses in order of weakest to strongest.
12: Western Carolina Catamounts
Craig Jones/Getty Images
At the end of 2011, Western Carolina decided that it would be moving its focus to the football team. They hired staff members from the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
This means something, because some of those staff members were a part of the Mountaineers when they overthrew Michigan back in 2007.
Does this mean that the Catamounts will beat the Tide? Most likely not, but they are on their way to becoming more like Georgia Southern than most Tide fans would like.
11: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Western Kentucky is one of two 'Bama opponents that hail from the Sun Belt conference. These are the cupcakes that other teams like to bring up in conversation frequently.
(As tempting as it is to get into a strength of schedule argument here, we will be saving that discussion for a later date.)
The Hilltoppers do not have enough firepower to overcome the Tide, even if 'Bama is looking toward the Arkansas game. However, this caliber of opponent is playing against the Tide to learn how to play the game at a higher level.
It's like finding someone who is going to whip your butt at rummy so you can learn how to play better faster.
These kids are looking for sound fundamentals, a couple of plays that will let them hold their heads up and of course, some money into their athletic department so that the cost isn't passed to the students.
10: Florida Atlantic Owls
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Florida Atlantic is the other team from the Sun Belt. Expect the score from this game to look almost identical to the score from the Western Kentucky game.
By this time in the schedule (yes, only two weeks later), the Tide's defense should have gelled enough to prevent getting dinged on some tricky plays.
The Owls are marginally better than the Hilltoppers, but the Tide defense's growth will make them look identical on the scoreboard.
If the Tide's defense isn't growing that fast, LSU will be a nightmare later in the season.
9: Mississippi State Bulldogs
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
As an overall threat to a perfect season for the Tide, Mississippi State is ranked much higher than this.
However, this is an offense-only article. The Bulldogs are not a fireworks show on offense at all. They tend to be astoundingly talented on defense and surprisingly shabby on offense.
Though the offense isn't a threat to the Tide's repeat, beware the day that a coach recruits an offense that matches this defense.
Mississippi State is one top-10 recruiting class away from being near the top of the SEC west.
8: Ole Miss Rebels
Joe Murphy/Getty Images
Call me nuts (I'm expecting it from this slide), but Randall Mackey is not going to endure what he did last year against the Tide.
Watching the fire in his eyes fade away as the clock wound down in each and every quarter was one of the saddest experiences of 2011.
He started the game with a touchdown strike, and the Tide defense simply locked him down. On top of that, Houston Nutt was in charge and Mackey's receivers weren't helping him out. (They were dropping passes that were hitting them in the hands.)
Now, the Rebels have Hugh Freeze. Freeze turned Arkansas State around in one year. The talent level in the SEC is completely different, but don't overlook the fact that he has a ton of talent to work with.
The gigantic leap from 2011 to 2012 will be because of attitude and a new coach. After a ranking of 116th offensively at the end of 2011, don't be surprised by a finish in the top 75 by the Rebels in 2012.
7: Auburn Tigers
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Like it or not, Gene Chizik is doing something over at Auburn that could pose a threat to the Crimson Tide year in and year out.
Though the Tigers are far from contending for another SEC championship in the imminent future, they aren't incapable of throwing a monkey wrench into the Tide's national championship machine.
As Chizik moves into 2012, his battle cry will not be what it was with Cam Newton calling signals. However, a call to arms for the Tigers could be as simple as "We did it in 1989, we can do it again."
In 1989, the Tigers were a vastly inferior team to the Tide, but handed Alabama its only loss of the season in the Iron Bowl.
That is highly unlikely to happen in 2012, but most people wouldn't have called for a 24-point comeback victory in 2010, either.
The Tigers are just talented enough to be scary in 2012, even though they are only seventh on this list.
6: Texas A&M Aggies
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Texas A&M is entering the SEC just like Missouri. Well, not just like the Tigers. The Aggies enter the SEC west...the division with three of the top 10 teams in the nation.
The Aggies would have come in a lot higher on this list but:
1) Tannehill is not taking the field.
2) The offense couldn't score enough points to stave off comebacks last year even with Tannehill.
The Aggies will score enough points to gain the attention of recruits, but they are a few years off from contending with the likes of 'Bama and LSU.
5: Tennessee Volunteers
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Tyler Bray will be leading a Tennessee team that should look nothing like the Volunteers of the last couple of years. Derek Dooley and his staff will be looking for a season that proves their system is viable.
Over the last two years, the Vols have been developing. Look for an offense that screams its way to a bowl game, even though it may be the first bowl game of the postseason.
Dooley may have a couple of years of leeway to form a team that makes its way to the conference championship, but this is the year he needs to make that leap forward.
A single step forward isn't going to do much for him, and this team is ready to make the leap.
4: Missouri Tigers
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Missouri's James Franklin is about to undergo the biggest challenge of his career: making it in the nation's premiere conference with no recruiting benefits from actually being in the conference.
Missouri finished the 2011 season ranked 30th in points for. The scary part is that the Tigers return that offense largely intact.
Missouri is going to host the Tide right after Alabama's bye week. The Tide's defense will need to be firing on all cylinders and firing smoothly to take the Tigers out with authority.
Franklin will be gunning for more than just a win. He'll be gunning for the respect of every team in the conference with a win over Alabama.
3: Michigan Wolverines
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Denard Robinson is not Cam Newton. Robinson is a scrambler at heart where Newton was simply a winner.
That being said, Michigan is the third-best offense that the Tide will face in 2012. While he's not a 100-percent complete quarterback, he's more than capable of keeping drives alive with his feet.
His offense is more than capable of making him look really good by adjusting to the ball in the air.
Make no mistake about it: Alabama can lose this game quite easily. If the Tide doesn't bring its A-game, the Tide will be mourning the loss of championship 15 in week 2. Michigan can't hang with the Tide for 60 minutes, but the Tide has to be there for all 60 minutes in order for that to matter.
2: LSU Tigers
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
LSU finished the season with the 17th-ranked offense nationally. This includes the Alabama games, in which they scored a total of nine combined points.
The reason they come in at second on this list instead of first is Zach Mettenberger. Yes, the LSU fanbase wishes him to be the savior of an offense that was handed a shutout in the national championship game. However, he's got a lot to prove before this sportswriter is convinced LSU's offense is improved over 2011.
The great news for Mett is that three beastly running backs return to wreak havoc on SEC defenses (Spencer Ware, Kenny Hilliard and Michael Ford).
1: Arkansas Razorbacks
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
The Razorbacks' offense finished the season ranked 15th in the nation. Two things to keep in mind for 2012:
1) Knile Davis returns to the gridiron after a year off due to injury.
2) That 15th ranking came from a schedule that faced them off against the nation's top two defenses.
In any other conference, the Razorbacks would have contended for the conference championship. Unfortunately, they finished third in their division behind the top two teams in the country.
This means that Arkansas will have a gargantuan chip on its shoulder when hosting the Tide in Fayetteville. (I was going to say Fayettenam, but a quick search revealed that the Internet has spoken on that matter [see sixth definition after the jump].)