Ohio State vs. Alabama: Position-by-Position Comparison of 2013 Teams

Cory McCuneContributor IIIJanuary 13, 2013

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.

    Since that trip to Miami, Meyer has made it clear that Nick Saban and Alabama have set the standard that the Buckeyes will work to match

    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.

Quarterback

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    Alabama

    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.

    Behind McCarron there isn't much experience. Phillip Ely, a sophomore, and incoming freshman Cooper Bateman will likely be the backups. 

     

    Ohio State

    After a record-breaking season of his own, Braxton Miller was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Big Ten MVP and finished fifth in the Heisman voting.

    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.

     

    Comparison

    Slight edge to Ohio State because of Guiton's experience.

Runningbacks

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    Alabama

    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. 

    Yeldon will be joined in the backfield by several blue-chip recruits like Dee Hart, Altee Tenpenny and Derrick Henry among others.

     

    Ohio State

    Thanks to the return of Carlos Hyde, the Buckeyes' backfield may be one of deepest in the country.

    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.

     

    Comparison

    Had Lacy returned, this discussion would be easy, but as it is, Alabama still holds a slight edge in terms of talent and depth.

Receivers/Tight Ends

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    Alabama

    The Crimson Tide will return most of their pass-catchers from 2012 with the exception of tight end Michael Williams.

    The key returnees are Amari Cooper, Kenny Bell and Kevin Norwood. You might remember Cooper as the guy running by the Notre Dame secondary uncovered in the title game.

    Also keep an eye on incoming freshman Robert Foster.

     

    Ohio State

    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.

     

    Comparison

    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.

Offensive Line

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    Alabama

    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.

     

    Ohio State

    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.

     

    Comparison

    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.

Defensive Line

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    Alabama

    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

    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.

     

    Comparison

    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.

Linebackers

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    Alabama

    Ironically, with the loss Nico Johnson, the Crimson Tide will rely heavily on Ohioan Trey DePriest to carry the linebacking core along with the returning C.J. Mosley. 

    Along with DePriest, the Tide returns Xzavier Dickson and Adrian Hubbard. All three have gained experience in Kirby Smart's 3-4 defense.

     

    Ohio State

    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.

     

    Comparison

    While Shazier may be the best either team has to offer, Alabama has more proven players and gets the comfortable edge over the Buckeyes.

Cornerbacks

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    Alabama

    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.

     

    Ohio State

    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.

     

    Comparison

    Roby is better than Belue and neither team has a proven second cornerback, so right now, the edge goes to Ohio State.

Safeties

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    Alabama

    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

    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.

     

    Comparison

    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.

Kicker/Punter

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    Alabama

    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.

     

    Ohio State

    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.

     

    Comparison

    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.