Why Nick Saban and Alabama Must Take the Rest of the AP Top 5 Seriously
The AP Top Five is littered with three SEC teams, with No. 1 Alabama sitting at the top of the pack. The Big 12 and Pac-12 are also a part of the discussion, but Alabama is assumed to be far better than anyone else ranked near them.
Nick Saban knows that there is no time to relax. The Tide must take every team—especially in the Top Five—seriously this season, even if the media may not agree.
Alabama received all 60 first-place votes in the most recent AP release, despite the strong showing of South Carolina against a team previously in the Top Five and the explosive offenses of West Virginia and Oregon.
The Tide has the nation’s best defense and has ridden that ability to their victories this year. However, the offense has had some issues, which has caused concern and focus for the Tide.
There are a number of keys that this team has to give attention to if Alabama looks to reign over college football again at the conclusion of the 2012 season.
Explosive Offenses Lay Ahead
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The Alabama defense is No. 1 in scoring and total defense. The Tide is No. 3 in rushing and pass defense. They look to be unbeatable.
Alabama has yet to face an offense that is as explosive as West Virginia or Oregon. Would it drop off dramatically in competition against the nation’s best offenses? Not likely, but those teams would struggle against units that are blazing fast and as athletic as the Tide’s defenders.
West Virginia is the No. 3 total offense in the country right now, gaining 570 yards per game. Oregon isn’t far behind, fielding the No. 7 total offense in the country.
Both Oregon and West Virginia have a load of speed and athleticism on the outside that would challenge the 3-4 Alabama scheme.
Nick Saban’s defenses have struggled in the past against the spread. These two teams would give the Saban-Smart tandem fits. Something tells me they aren’t overlooking this possibility.
Because Nick Saban Says so
Nick Saban has been known to be a bit edgy, but he really lost it early in September. After Alabama blasted then-No. 8 Michigan, the media fell back in love with the Crimson Tide.
Saban took offense with the media labeling his team unbeatable and launching them into the No. 1 spot in the rankings. He went on to say that this team hadn’t earned anything yet and there was a long road to travel—yada yada yada.
This may be a continual theme from Saban, but it has just cause. Blowing up on the media was uncalled for, but keeping his team focused is a must. Saban does a great job of not letting his team get too confident.
He also yells at the media when they get too confident for his liking.
In both scenarios, Saban makes sure he tells everyone to temper expectations and never take opponents too lightly.
It would be a huge mistake for this Alabama team to take any Top-Five opponent lightly. Under Saban, it won’t happen.
Injuries Are Mounting
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The Crimson Tide have not faced a lot of injuries in the past few seasons, but this year they have lost two key members of their offense.
Demetrius Hart and DeAndrew White both fell to season-ending injuries against Ole Miss two weekends ago. Starting cornerback Deion Belue was also injured in the game.
Hart was mainly being used as a return man, but White was a major part of the Tide's passing offense. He had caught a pass in every game for Alabama, and snagged two touchdowns grabs.
Belue will be a player to watch, as the Tide secondary is not as deep as it has been in previous seasons.
Another player to monitor is Eddie Lacy. Lacy has battled injuries for his entire career, and he was seen favoring his hamstring against Ole Miss. The Tide has a deep roster, but they can’t continue to have to adjust to major injuries.
SEC East Is Poised for a Title
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The SEC East has made a major leap in the college football world this season. There were teams that were expected to be tough conference contenders, but Florida and South Carolina have taken the national stage by storm.
Florida has some issues offensively, but overall it is a very talented team with a show-stopping defense. South Carolina is a complete football team with a dangerous defense and explosive offense.
Neither team will face off against Alabama before the SEC title game. Alabama still has No. 19 Mississippi State and No. 9 LSU left on the schedule, but those teams don’t look as strong as Florida or South Carolina.
The road to the national title will come through the SEC championship once again this season, but Alabama can’t expect to be handed the trophy. South Carolina will be the likely opponent, and the Gamecocks will be ready for the Tide in Atlanta.
Alabama has a tough road to keep the top spot in the AP poll by season's end.
Repeating as National Champions Is a Tall Order
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Making a national title run in college football is one of the most difficult endeavors in all of sports. Repeating as national champions is virtually impossible.
There have only been two repeat title winners since 1980—Nebraska in 1994-95 and USC in 2003-04.
Alabama did it in the 60s, but with the talent that is spread throughout the country now, it is far more difficult than it was 50 years ago. The Tide are poised for a second run at the title, but so many things can go wrong.
Alabama has been able to cruise to big wins early, but that doesn’t mean the Tide are safe from defeat.
Alabama still has to travel to LSU for a night contest against the Bayou Bengals, and must also face the best team in the SEC East, assuming the Tide make it into the SEC title game.
Keeping focus and avoiding major setbacks is tough. Doing it two seasons in a row is nearly impossible.