The defending national champion kicks off the season against Michigan in less than two weeks. Alabama fans have been waiting for this moment since the 2012 BCS National Championship Game in January.
Alabama fans have high hopes for the 2012 season as well as high expectations. There is a huge difference between the two:
1) Hopes: What is the best-case scenario for the Tide?
2) Expectations: If the Tide fails to meet these, the season will be considered bad.
For instance, Tide fans hoped that Alabama would repeat as national champions in 2010. Fans expected no more than two losses. Neither the hopes nor the expectations of the fans were met in 2010.
That being said, it was far from a bad season. It was just a bad season for the Tide. (There is a huge difference.)
First, we will tackle the hopes.
In a perfect world, A.J. McCarron will win the Heisman in 2012. At Alabama, if McCarron were to approach Heisman stats, he would be pulled from games. Tyrone Prothro (WARNING: graphic content) taught us that lesson the hard way. (Even though most of us had already learned and were wondering what he was doing still on the field in that game.)
However, in a perfect world, the Heisman voters would take into account how many minutes the player has played as opposed to just the total numbers.
Tiders also hope that there will be another crystal football in Tuscaloosa at the end of this season. That would mean that the Tide successfully accomplished what no other school could during the reign of the BCS.
Not only that, it would mean that the state of Alabama will have taken the last four national titles in a row, making it the most powerful football state in the nation without question. This would also make the Tide the only SEC team with three national titles in the BCS era. Again, this would give the Tide some gigantic bragging rights for the next 10-plus years.
Of course, LSU can also claim three titles in the BCS era if it were to win it all this year. This makes the regular-season match between LSU and Alabama that much bigger in 2012.
The expectations placed on the Tide are almost as high as the hopes. Under no circumstances (except major injury) should the Tide loss more than two games. On paper, these losses could come to LSU and Arkansas. This is the worst-case scenario for the Crimson Tide.
Should the Tide drop a third game along the line somewhere due to anything but massive injury sweeping the starting lineup, this season will be another "What the heck was that?!" season like 2010.
The great news for the Tide is that the 2012 season looks no worse than a one-loss trip to the Sugar Bowl. That trip to the Sugar Bowl is what we would call a reasonable expectation.
So, the hope of all Tide fans is that Alabama successfully defends its national title. If not, a trip to the Sugar Bowl is an acceptable consolation prize. The worst-case scenario is that the Tide makes a two-loss trip to either the Capital One Bowl or Cotton Bowl.
Also expected of the Tide is a candidate from Tuscaloosa in New York at the Heisman presentation ceremony. Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon (wishful thinking) or McCarron should earn a trip to the Big Apple, but Barrett Jones has one of the best cases in history for being a non-traditional Heisman winner.
There are hundreds of thousands of fans that would jump for joy with a season like Alabama is about to have. No matter what, it's still great to be a Tide fan. Roll Tide!