Alabama Football: Biggest Threats to Crimson Tide's Championship Hopes in 2013
After winning two national titles in the last three years, this may just be the beginning for Nick Saban and Alabama.
Armed with the No. 1 recruiting class in the country and blessed with some starters who figure to only get better moving forward, everyone has their eyes on the vaunted Crimson Tide.
But it's not all about Alabama. There are several big-time programs that figure to make life difficult for the Crimson Tide in their quest for yet another national championship.
Here's a look at the top five programs I see giving Alabama a run for its money in 2013-2014.
Chip Kelly's departure to the Philadelphia Eagles drops Oregon a bit in my eyes, but the Ducks have so much talent on the offensive side of the ball that it may not matter.
Kenjon Barner gone? No problem. The Ducks still have the electric De'Anthony Thomas and promising 5-star running back Thomas Tyner.
There's also Marcus Mariota, who ranked seventh in the nation in quarterback rating as a freshman last season, per CFBStats.com. He completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 8.0 yards per pass attempt while tossing 32 touchdowns to six interceptions. That's not even including his 752 yards and seven scores on the ground.
I do have concerns about the Oregon linebacking corps, though.
4. Notre Dame
I feel as if Notre Dame isn't getting the attention it deserves this offseason.
Sure, the Fighting Irish got blown out by Alabama in the national championship last season and, sure, they are losing Manti Te'o to the NFL, but they still made it to the national title game and their defense could be scary given their recruiting class this year.
Not only do they have nose guard Louis Nix III and defensive end Stephon Tuitt returning, they recruited 5-star linebacker Jaylon Smith, 5-star defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes (who could play defensive end opposite Tuitt), 5-star safety Max Redfield (to replace Zeke Motta), 4-star linebacker Doug Randolph and 4-star cornerbacks Cole Luke and Devin Butler.
Beyond that, they landed 4-star running back Greg Bryant and three 4-star receivers.
Quarterback Everett Golson should be better next season and if this defense can come together, the Fighting Irish have a great chance of making it back to the national championship game (albeit saddled with a tough schedule).
3. Texas A&M
That's reason No. 1 why Texas A&M could contend for the national title next season.
But beyond the Heisman-winning dual-threat quarterback, the Aggies posted the No. 10 recruiting class in the nation this year (per 247Sports.com).
The losses are notable (particularly left tackle Luke Joeckel and defensive end Damontre Moore), but the Aggies did land four 4-star receivers, four 4-star defensive linemen and 5-star athlete Ricky Seals-Jones.
This offense could have the firepower to overcome the program's losses.
Stanford's biggest loss has to be running back Stepfan Taylor, but there is some promise in the backfield to fill in.
For one, Tyler Gaffney, who spent a year in the minor leagues, is back. In 2011, Gaffney rushed for 449 yards and seven touchdowns on 6.1 yards per carry.
There's also Anthony Wilkerson, Barry Sanders Jr. and Kelsey Young.
Quarterback Kevin Hogan, who surprised in 2012, should also be better. Four-star receiver Francis Owusu and tight ends Eric Cotton Jr., Austin Hooper and Greg Taboada should provide an instant boost.
1. Ohio State
Who poses the greatest threat to Alabama?
Ohio State went undefeated last season. You add the fact it posted the No. 2 recruiting class in the country this year and you have yourself a championship contender.
Sensational dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller should only be better in 2013 and an injection of electric receivers and eye-opening defensive backs to the program makes the Buckeyes scary.
The biggest concern for Ohio State will be replacing defensive end John Simon and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, but there is plenty of talent on the roster for a couple players to emerge as formidable replacements at the positions.
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