Ohio State vs. Alabama: Position-by-Position Comparison of 2013 Teams
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Urban Meyer was a guest analyst for ESPN's airing of the BCS National Championship Game. Meyer watched firsthand and saw the dominance of Alabama in person.
Alabama will once again be the favorite to win the national championship in 2014. However, Meyer's Buckeyes are third on those lists.
In 2012, Ohio State was the only undefeated team in FBS college football, while Alabama went 13-1 in winning their third national title in four years.
Both return several key pieces, but both will have to fill holes on both sides of the ball.
Alabama showed its dominance in 2012, but will Ohio State have closed the gap by 2013?
Here's how the positions break down.
Braxton Miller will return for his junior season as one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy.
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A.J. McCarron will return for his senior year, coming off back-to-back national championships and a 25-2 record as a starter.
Despite that career record and a record-breaking season for the Crimson Tide, McCarron hasn't received much individual attention. However, with another great performance in the title game, he may start to gain more.
Miller's running exploits are well-known. If he can improve his passing mechanics and consistency, then Ohio State's offense could be nearly unstoppable.
Unlike Alabama, the Buckeyes have a backup with experience. Kenny Guiton came in several times throughout 2012 and led a comeback against Purdue.
Slight edge to Ohio State because of Guiton's experience.
With Eddie Lacy forgoing his senior season, T.J. Yeldon will take over as Alabama's feature back.
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Having a player with the ability of Eddie Lacy declare for the NFL draft would hurt most teams. But Alabama clearly isn't most teams.
T.J. Yeldon is the next man up and is coming off a 1,000-yard season as a freshman.
Versatility is this backfield's best quality. Hyde provides the power, Jordan Hall will be the change-of-pace scatback, Bri'onte Dunn is a bit of a mix and Rod Smith provides another option with his pass-catching ability.
Had Lacy returned, this discussion would be easy, but as it is, Alabama still holds a slight edge in terms of talent and depth.
Amari Cooper proved to be too much for Notre Dame's secondary in the title game.
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The Crimson Tide will return most of their pass-catchers from 2012 with the exception of tight end Michael Williams.
Also keep an eye on incoming freshman Robert Foster.
The Buckeyes receiving core didn't boast a 1,000-yard receiver like Cooper for Alabama. However, like Alabama, Ohio State only loses one of it's top targets: Jake Stoneburner.
Ohio State returns Corey Brown and Devin Smith as Miller's primary targets. Beyond those two, there are several question marks, but Jalin Marshall looks like the type of athlete who could contribute right away.
Alabama gets a comfortable edge for now. But if Ohio State's passing game improves over the spring and summer, then the Buckeyes have the talent to close the gap.
Jack Mewhort will return to anchor the Ohio State offensive line.
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The Crimson Tide will lose three starters from the offensive line that led to back-to-back national titles.
The line will be anchored by left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and guard Anthony Steen.
Talent will not be an issue for Alabama—Nick Saban has made sure of that. But they will lack experience, at least at the start of the season.
Experience won't be an issue for Ohio State's offensive line. The Buckeyes will return four starters, all of whom are seniors.
The player to join Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, Corey Linsley and Marcus Hall (left tackle-right guard) will likely be sophomore right tackle Taylor Decker.
Due to experience and success in 2012, I give a slight edge to Ohio State. But if/when Alabama's line gels, then the Tide could pass by Ohio State.
Ed Stinson will return up front for Alabama.
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Ed Stinson is the most experienced returnee for Alabama's defensive line.
The Crimson Tide will have to replace Damion Square and Quinton Dial. But as with every other position, Nick Saban has talent stored away.
Alabama will also have to replace star nose tackle Jesse Williams.
Ohio State is in a similar situation as Alabama when it comes to the defensive end position.
The Buckeyes lose both of their starting defensive ends with the graduation of Nathan Williams and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year John Simon.
The Buckeyes will also lose both defensive tackles, John Hankins and Garrett Goebel.
Both team's will be looking to former blue-chip recruits to go from backups to stars in 2013. Neither team's defensive ends have proved much, so this is a wash.
Ryan Shazier came on in the second half of 2012 and will lead the "Silver Bullets" in 2013.
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Along with DePriest, the Tide returns Xzavier Dickson and Adrian Hubbard. All three have gained experience in Kirby Smart's 3-4 defense.
While Alabama relies on a northerner, Ohio State relies on a southerner. Ryan Shazier, a Florida native, will be Ohio State's only returning starter in the front seven.
Shazier had a standout sophomore season and will look to improve in 2013. The Buckeyes will need him to, as they will have to break in two new starters to go along with him.
While Shazier may be the best either team has to offer, Alabama has more proven players and gets the comfortable edge over the Buckeyes.
Bradley Roby will return to make a run at the 2013 Thorpe Award.
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Alabama's cornerback situation took a big blow when All-American Dee Milliner declared for the NFL draft.
But the Crimson Tide return Deion Belue at one corner spot and will likely turn to Geno Smith at the other spot.
Smith got some experience as the third corner for Alabama in 2012.
The Buckeyes' cornerback crew got some good news when Bradley Roby decided to return to Ohio State for his redshirt junior season.
Roby was an All-Big Ten performer in 2012, but his fellow starter, Travis Howard, graduated.
Ohio State will likely turn to Doran Grant to take over opposite Roby.
Roby is better than Belue and neither team has a proven second cornerback, so right now, the edge goes to Ohio State.
Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix played a key role in Alabama's dominant performance against Notre Dame.
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Alabama will have to replace Robert Lester but will have two highly talented and experienced juniors ready to step in.
Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix started in 2012 and was one of the many standouts for Alabama against Notre Dame.
Vinnie Sunseri will likely step into the other safety spot. Sunseri didn't start but got plenty of snaps in 2012.
Ohio State returns multiyear starters at both safety spots.
Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett—both seniors—should be a calming influence and a crutch for a Buckeyes defense that will be replacing so much around them.
Another senior, Corey Brown, will likely play the "star" or nickleback position in 2013.
Bryant and Barnett have proven to be steady performers in their careers, but Clinton-Dix has shown he's capable of stardom and gives Alabama the edge.
Cody Mandell will once again handle the punting for Alabama.
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Jeremy Shelley finished up his collegiate career in the national championship game, so Alabama will be looking for a new kicker.
Meanwhile, Cody Mandell will return as the punter in 2013.
It's the opposite for Ohio State. Kicker Drew Basil will return for his senior season, while Ben Buchanan will be replaced by high school All-American Johnny Townsend at punter.
With the talent each team possesses on offense, neither team should have to kick the ball very often. But a veteran kicker like Basil gives the Buckeyes the edge here.