The Alabama Crimson Tide were the best team in college football this season—blowing out No. 1 Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship—but will lose the No. 1 ranking next season.
Alabama has a solid nucleus of players returning next season that will definitely have their chances of winning a third straight championship very high. John Taylor of NBC Sports writes how important those players are:
Based on their most recent two-deep depth chart, and pending any early departures for the NFL, the Tide will return a total of 16 starters—eight on offense, eight on defense—as well as their main punter, punt returner and kickoff returner.
Included in that total is their starting quarterback, at least one of their two 1,000-yard rushers (Eddie Lacy will likely leave early for the draft), their top four receivers in receptions and yards, four of their five leading tacklers and their two leading sackers.
That’s certainly a lot of key pieces coming back to the Crimson Tide, but that doesn’t necessarily mean success. There are a couple of teams right behind Alabama that will contend for the No. 1 ranking by the end of the 2013 season.
The Cardinals may play out of the Big East, but they’re just as good as any team in the country. Coming into the Allstate Sugar Bowl, not many had them topping SEC powerhouse Florida. But that’s what ended up happening.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater shocked the Gators by 10 points to claim the BCS victory. Bridgewater, a sophomore, will be back wanting more next season. He threw for 3,700 yards and 27 touchdowns this year with just eight interceptions.
Andrea Adelson of ESPN already has Louisville as the best team in the conference heading into 2013. The Cardinals won’t play many talented opponents before their in-conference schedule, but still have a shot at the top spot in the country. As long as Bridgewater is taking the snaps, anything is possible for Louisville.
Texas A&M Aggies
Johnny Manziel and the Aggies of Texas A&M are going to give Alabama a run for its money next time they meet. Texas A&M was the only team this season to take down the National Champions, a 29-24 win in early November. The only losses the Aggies suffered this year were to ranked teams and LSU was No. 6 in the country at the time.
The key to the Aggies overtaking the Crimson Tide as the nation’s top team will be to defeat them again. Alabama will make the trip to Kyle Field on September 14 in one of the most anticipated matchups of the season. The Aggies will not only prove that they’re the top team in the SEC, but the top in the country as well.
After the Alabama game, the Aggies shouldn’t have much trouble getting to the National Championship Game. The only foreseeable potential hiccups could be trips to Baton Rouge and Columbia to play LSU and Missouri. Winning the SEC Championship won’t be easy, but Manziel is already a winner and will be able to find a weakness in any opponent’s defense.
The Bulldogs got the short end of the stick this season, but a loss against Alabama in the final week of the season will tend to do that. Outside of a loss mid-year to South Carolina, Georgia had been perfect going into that game which would determine who would play Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game.
Georgia lost by four points and found itself playing Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. Aaron Murray was great in a 45-31 bowl victory and will return next season, looking to play in a more important bowl.
The Bulldogs will lose a lot on defense—especially Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree—but have the necessary weapons on offense to keep on winning. Todd Gurley will only be a sophomore and was a mainstay in the Georgia offense this year. With Murray and Gurley, Georgia will be ready to make a statement to the college football world.