10 Reasons Alabama Crimson Tide Will Never Relinquish No. 1 Spot in Either Poll
There were a lot of questions surrounding the college football defending champions before the season started.
The Alabama Crimson Tide lost many key contributors from a year ago. Running back Trent Richardson left early for the NFL draft, and a total of six starters from the No. 1-ranked defense had moved on from their collegiate career as well.
But although there were many reasons to question this team, the Crimson Tide are the overwhelming No. 1 team in the country in both polls, receiving at least 40 first-place votes from both the writers and coaches.
While there is still plenty of college football to play, here are 10 reasons why Alabama will remain the top team throughout the remainder of the season.
Don't Move Backwards
Ever since Nick Saban has arrived in Tuscaloosa back in 2007, the Crimson Tide has been ranked in the top 15 in penalty yardage. Four of the last five years, Alabama has been ranked inside the top 10 of least penalized teams in the country. Last season, it was the second-least penalized team in the country, averaging less than four penalties a game and fewer than 30 penalty yards.
This season, in just two games, Alabama is averaging 32 yards in penalty yards, which is good for 23rd in the country and third-best in the SEC at the moment.
It is certainly hard for teams to win games when they are constantly hurting themselves, but this is something that Alabama does not have to worry about. Due to the discipline handed down by head coach Saban, the Crimson Tide are a team that will be in every game due to the lack of hurting themselves in ball games.
Offensive Line Is Still One of the Best in the Country
What more can be said about the offensive line of Alabama that has not been said?
In the middle is arguably the best lineman in the country in Barrett Jones, who is a candidate for several awards this season. And D.J. Fluker, Chance Warmack and Anthony Steen all have a total of eight years of experience under their belts as well.
The only new guy of the group is starting left tackle, Cyrus Kouandjio, but he is a former 5-star recruit, who is holding his own early on in the season.
The average size of the starting offensive line for Alabama is 6'4", 314 pounds, which equals to a lot of protection on the football field.
The Crimson Tide did have a few missed assignments against Western Kentucky, as the Hilltoppers generated six inexcusable sacks in a losing effort. You can expect a much better showing in the next game against Arkansas, as this unit will be under heavy scrutiny this week.
Replacing Field Goals with Touchdowns
With the shaky field-goal situation, it is important that Alabama is able to punch the ball into the end zone more often this season. Last year, the Crimson Tide had a total of 58 red-zone trips, but had to settle for 19 field goals, which equaled to 32 percent of their scoring in the red zone.
In the first two games of the season, Alabama is 6-for-6 in the red zone, with five of those trips resulting in touchdowns. Of course, with this average, it means that Alabama would only get into the red zone 36 times, but 30 of those trips would result in touchdowns, while the Crimson Tide would have to settle for a field goal only six times.
I'm sure Nick Saban would love that type of production if Alabama can keep it up.
Defense Is the Real Deal
Remember everybody questioning the defense of Alabama due to many players leaving?
After seeing this unit perform the last two games, how many defenses would you pick over this one?
In the first two games, the Crimson Tide has only allowed 25 first downs, which is the second least in the SEC. The 246.5 total yards is good for third in the conference and 14th-best in the country. Alabama is only allowing 32 percent of third-down conversions, is generating good pressure up front from their front seven and has only allowed two red-zone trips so far this year.
The young linebackers appear to be settling in nicely, while safety Vinnie Sunseri is quickly becoming the player we all thought he could be.
You can talk about the lack of experience all you want, but if the first two games are any indication of how the rest of the year will play out, this is another top-five defense in 2012.
Turnover Margin Is Elite Status
And while we are on the topic of defense, forcing turnovers seems to have become the identity on this side of the ball this season.
Alabama has already forced seven turnovers this year, while only turning the ball over one time, which results in a 3.00 turnover margin in just two games. The Crimson Tide are nearly halfway there to last year's total, as they only created 20 difference making plays on the defensive side of the ball in 2011. (Via Don Kausler Jr. of al.com)
“Last year, we were No. 1 in a lot of categories, but we weren’t very good in the turnover category, and that’s something we’ve been focused on,” senior defensive end Damion Square said.
There are four different players who have an interception on the season. There have been 11 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.
It's hard to lose games when you are forcing teams to cough the ball up that many times and are doing a terrific job of not giving the ball away yourself.
AJ McCarron Has Arrived
One of the questions we had with this team was the development of quarterback AJ McCarron. We saw what he was capable of in the BCS National Championship Game, but the coaching staff never opened up the playbook completely for the young quarterback.
This season, Alabama has ran the football 73 times, but has thrown the ball 41 times, meaning that there seems to be more of a balanced attack going on with this offense.
While the junior quarterback could improve his 62 percent completion percentage, he has yet to make a mistake with the football. His decision-making has drastically improved, and he is averaging over 10 yards a completion, which is the most of any other team in the SEC. McCarron is completing 60 percent of his passes on third down and has five passes already of 25 yards or more.
I think the offense of Alabama is more than just a run it down your throat-type unit now.
Running Back Tandem
Alabama has just received terrible news that running back Jalston Fowler will likely miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury. He was off to a terrific start, averaging over seven yards a carry in the first two games.
Good news is that the Crimson Tide still has a two-headed monster in Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon. Both are more than capable of carrying the load, and their different running styles complement each other so much in the backfield.
Yeldon may only be a freshman, but is averaging eight yards a touch and is a threat to take every carry the distance. Lacy is off to a slow start, but has proven that he has the tools to become one of the better backs in the country when he is 100 percent healthy. Dee Hart is also an explosive back that can make plays as well.
With the combination of talent in the backfield and one of the top offensive lines, Alabama will continue to have a solid running game to lean on.
USC Is Looking Beatable
Despite the SEC winning six straight national championships, many believe that the USC Trojans have enough talent to win it all this season.
Not so fast.
USC is not looking good at all on the defensive side of the ball, allowing 265 yards a game in the air. The secondary looks confused at times, leaving many open receivers down field. (If Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib could actually throw an accurate football, the Orange would have had a shot last weekend.)
And despite the issues with the secondary, the team is also averaging 10 penalties a game, which is by far the worst in the Pac-12, but also one of the worst in the country. Then the Trojans also have to deal with an injury to center Khaled Holmes, who left last week's game with a knee injury.
USC has enough offensive firepower to possibly win the Pac-12, but I'm not sure the team is good enough to stop the streak of SEC dominance.
Schedules Are Soft
Alabama has the most impressive victory to date with a victory over the Michigan Wolverines. Although the Arkansas Razorbacks ruined much of the hype for this week’s matchup, a victory in Fayetteville should still be considered impressive.
The Crimson Tide also take a trip to Columbia to play a feisty Missouri team. They will also travel to Knoxville to play a ranked Tennessee squad, a road game against LSU and two underrated SEC teams in Texas A&M and Mississippi State.
Looking at the schedule of USC, the only tough games it has all year are against Oregon and Notre Dame. A trip to the Rose Bowl may be tricky, but we are talking about a Bruins team that has only won one game against the Trojans in the last 13 years. The rest should be cake walks for the Trojans, including this week’s matchup against Stanford, a team that let San Jose State give them a run.
Oregon is in exactly the same boat as USC, playing virtually nobody in the weak Pac-12.
LSU has the best chance of jumping Alabama, as it plays teams such as Florida and South Carolina before the big matchup against the Crimson Tide. But does anybody actually expect the Gators, a team that is terrible on offense, to give the Tigers a legitimate run? And South Carolina plays Georgia the week before the matchup with LSU, a game that the Gamecocks could lose, resulting in a drop in the rankings.
Alabama has the talent to possibly run the table and has a schedule advantage that will help it remain in the No. 1 spot along the way.
Nick Saban Factor
We don't need to talk about head coach Nick Saban much in this slide.
Just know that he has won 82 percent of his games at Alabama. He has three national championships to his name, two of which he has won in Tuscaloosa. He has also won three SEC Championships and has been named the AP National Coach of the Year two times and the SEC Coach of the Year three times.
Saban is by far one of the more successful coaches of this generation in any sport. He simply knows how to recruit, finds the perfect players for his system and knows how to get the most out of his players, even if they are underclassmen.
I don't know about you, but there isn't another coach that I would rather have in college football right now. And when you include the most successful coach of the last decade, and nine of the other reasons, there is good reason to believe that the Crimson Tide will remain the team to beat throughout the season, again.