Alabama Football: Tide's Biggest Threats to Winning 3rd Straight Title
With the way the Alabama Crimson Tide have been bullying their way through the college football landscape, winning a third straight national title is a high possibility. The win over Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game has made it three titles in the last four years, and you know Nick Saban isn't ready to pass the torch anytime soon.
This is a program that is hungry for even more success and will be going for the three-peat next year.
If only winning was that easy.
Alabama has made it seem like beating up on the competition is a cinch, but there are other quality teams out there that will pose a threat to the Crimson Tide's title run in 2013.
With depth charts changing, coaches changing positions and new faces stepping on campus, a lot can change from one year to the next.
Here are a few teams that will give Alabama a run for its money in 2013 for the BCS national championship.
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Everybody wrote off Stanford when it lost Andrew Luck, as this was a program that was supposed to get a dose of reality and fail to be relevant for quite some time. All the Cardinal did was win the Pac-12 and the BCS Rose Bowl, looking like one of the better teams in college football.
I refuse to write this team off heading into next year.
Stanford is terrific in the trenches, leading the country with 57 sacks last year while allowing only 19. What makes this team so scary is that the majority of the defensive side of the ball is returning, making this a legit unit heading into next season. The SEC is so dominant because of its physical style of play on the offensive and defensive lines, but Stanford is one of the few teams that has the same thing going for it.
Offensively, quarterback Kevin Hogan does have dual-threat ability that should provide a spark to the offense. With a year under his belt and a full offseason of taking reps with the first team, Hogan could really become one of the better quarterbacks in the Pac-12.
With the inconsistency in this conference, Stanford should be a force again next year, making a serious run for another BCS bowl.
4. Texas A&M
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It is truly amazing how quickly Texas A&M went from being a question mark to one of the most exciting teams to watch in college football. The only squad that found a way to knock off the Crimson Tide this season was in fact the Aggies.
You can expect the second-year SEC school to continue to be competitive heading into next season.
Heisman winner Johnny Manziel will remain the starting quarterback for this team and could be even better with a full year of experience. He will also have a bunch of talented receivers to throw the ball to, thanks to a loaded recruiting class in 2013. With an offense led by Manziel, the Aggies have a chance to win every game because he has the ability to take over like college football has not seen since Cam Newton.
Texas A&M had issues in the secondary and will miss defensive end Damontre Moore, but should be able to get by with younger players picking up experience this season. It also helps that games against Alabama, Auburn, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State all take place at Kyle Field next year.
With an unbelievable quarterback and a favorable schedule, the Aggies should compete for a BCS title next season.
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Remember the team that nearly won the SEC championship before finding the most bizarre way to come up short? Yeah, the Georgia Bulldogs aren't going anywhere.
This team will have a lot of work to do on the defensive side of the ball with Jarvis Jones, John Jenkins, Alec Ogletree and many other starters leaving for the NFL. However, Georgia is a team that recruits well and should have little problem putting talented guys on the field. There will be growing pains, particularly in the secondary, but there is plenty of depth on the roster to feel confident heading into next year.
The real reason to like this Georgia team is the offense. Quarterback Aaron Murray will return for his senior year, and the combination of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall gives this team one of the nation's best one-two punches at running back. Every starter on the offensive line should also return, making this arguably the most complete offense in the SEC next year.
The Bulldogs' schedule will be a lot harder than it was this season, but with the best quarterback in the SEC and oodles of weapons around him, they could win the SEC and be that new team representing the conference next year in the title game.
2. Ohio State
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Urban Meyer was able to run the table in his first year at Ohio State; it makes you wonder what he will be able to accomplish with another season on campus.
You know that quarterback Braxton Miller will only improve with a year in the spread offense. He had a remarkable season his sophomore year and should be one of the front-runners to win the 2013 Heisman. The skill positions around him should also improve with a talented recruiting class coming in and some of the younger players stepping up late last year.
The Buckeyes will have issues on defense, as many guys ended up graduating on this side of the ball. The entire defensive line will need to be replaced, and the linebacker positions will see plenty of new faces. However, Meyer was able to recruit well on the defensive line and will have several athletes to work with, making this a faster unit than a year ago.
Nobody is quite sure what to expect from the Big Ten next year, especially after the horrible season the conference just had. But judging by Meyer's track record, you know his team will remain in the national championship conversation. With a Heisman candidate at quarterback, I wouldn't bet against his team next year.
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Until head coach Chip Kelly leaves Oregon, you have to like the Ducks' chances of competing for a national title. Oh, Kelly is leaving for the NFL? Nope, he fooled us all once again, as he decided to stay in school.
With the head coach remaining on the sidelines, the Ducks will continue to score thousands of points. Marcus Mariota could be the best quarterback this team has had under Kelly and gives the team that passing threat, as he completed 68.5 percent of his passes and threw for 32 touchdowns. With guys such as De'Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff still on the roster, good luck stopping this unit.
The Ducks defense should continue to be the surprising part of this team with Taylor Hart and company returning on the defensive line. And despite all of the injuries that took place in the secondary (four starters return in the defensive backfield) the Ducks have the potential to have the best pass defense in the Pac-12 next year.
Some would say we have seen how Oregon fares against SEC defenses and it isn't pretty. While true, this is a team that is arguably the most talented outside the SEC heading into next year. In order to be a threat for the national championship, you have to make the big game first.
Look for the Ducks to pose the biggest threat to Alabama next season.