Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide are once again expected to make a strong run at capturing the school's third consecutive national title.
With spring practice officially in the books, Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide will spend the next few months leading up to the 2013 season preparing for a run at its third consecutive national title.
The spring gave glimpses of what the Tide have in store for this fall. Despite the calendar flipping, not much else has changed in Tuscaloosa.
Even after losing three decorated starters on the offensive line, Saban was pleased with the progress made by that unit in spring ball according to Don Kausler Jr. of AL.com.
The return of veteran quarterback AJ McCarron and a deep and explosive group of skill players will give the Tide one of the nation’s most efficient and potent offensive attacks.
After causing a plethora of turnovers in the spring game, the concerns entering spring about the secondary appear to have faded considerably, as B/R colleague Barrett Sallee noted.
Alabama is loaded for another title run, but the schedule presents its share of challenges starting with another high-profile nonconference opener against Virginia Tech in the Georgia Dome.
Showdowns with SEC West powers Texas A&M (Sept. 14) and LSU (Nov. 9) will be tough, but the Tide will have the luxury of a bye week preceding each of those contests.
How does the rest of the slate shake out, and how will each game play out?
Find out in this post-spring edition of game-by-game predictions on the Tide’s 2013 season.
Tide fans are hoping this meeting turns into another springboard for a title run, as it did in 2009 when the Tide topped the Hokies, 34-24, in the last meeting between these two schools.
The Hokies have shaken things up on the heels of a 7-6 campaign in 2012, according to Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports.
The new blood on offense plus eight returning starters on a defense that finished in the top 20 nationally in total defense bodes well for a potential bounce-back year for Frank Beamer’s club.
But under Saban, Alabama has won its nonconference openers against BCS schools by margins of 24, 10, 21, 16 and 27 points. While the Hokies are capable of staying competitive, Alabama still has too much firepower for Beamer’s club.
Alabama 38, Virginia Tech 17
This game is easily one of the country’s most anticipated matchups entering the 2013 season, thanks to the emergence of Aggies star quarterback Johnny Manziel and their 29-24 victory over Alabama last November.
Manziel appeared to pick up right where he left off from his Heisman-winning debut season after a stellar spring game performance (h/t Associated Press via Sports Illustrated).
In a spring interview with ESPN’s Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit, Saban spoke on the challenges (around the 2:20 mark in the clip above) that his team—particularly, his defense—will face against Kevin Sumlin’s offense.
The last time the Crimson Tide entered a contest with revenge on their mind, they dismantled previously unbeaten LSU in the BCS title game last January.
While a beatdown of that magnitude may not be the final result, it’s hard to imagine the Tide walking out of Kyle Field without avenging their only defeat from last season.
Alabama 38, Texas A&M 27
The matchup against Colorado State features the return of former Tide offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, who left Tuscaloosa to take over as the head coach of Rams following the 2011 season.
He will welcome back 17 starters from a team that went 4-8 in his debut season, but he’s clearly still in the development phase of rebuilding that program.
While its possible for the Tide to come out sluggish after two-high profile games prior and another anticipated conference game against Ole Miss the following week, Colorado State simply does not have enough firepower to hang with the Tide.
Alabama 48, Colorado State 10
Ole Miss capitalized on a strong debut season under head coach Hugh Freeze by reeling in a Top 10 recruiting class in February.
The Rebels fought hard in last season’s 33-14 loss to the Tide, with its defense holding Alabama to a season-low 305 yards of total offense.
With only a handful of players departing from last season’s squad, the Rebels are a trendy pick to improve on their 7-6 record from last season. Three of those losses came by seven points or less to ranked conference foes.
But the Rebels struggled in the spring missing several players due to injury, including starting quarterback Bo Wallace (h/t Ron Higgins, Memphis Commercial Appeal).
That’s part of the reason that this game could prove to be a potential stumbling block on the Tide’s schedule.
But because of Alabama’s struggles against the Rebels a year ago, and with the fortune of seeing the high-powered Aggies similar-style offense two weeks prior to this year’s meeting, Saban’s club should be amply prepared for this division clash.
Alabama 38, Ole Miss 24
But he has a sizable rebuilding project in front of him, as the Wildcats joined Auburn as the only two SEC programs that failed to win a conference game in 2012.
The first step is installing a high-octane offense in similar fashion to teams like Texas Tech and West Virginia. While they may not have the optimum personnel to run that offense this season, the switch to an uptempo attack should help them improve a unit that finished 115th nationally in total offense last season.
But it’s hard to envision Kentucky putting up a worthy fight against the two-time defending champs. In the end, the Tide should roll to one of its easier victories in league play.
Alabama 42, Kentucky 10
New Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema has already made his first meeting against Nick Saban a little more interesting, thanks to some choice comments directed at Saban and the Tide program according to Mike Herndon of AL.com.
A schedule that puts the meeting with the Crimson Tide at the end of a brutal five-game gauntlet will not help an already challenging rebuilding project in 2013.
Even though the Razorbacks could be a much improved club by the time they face the Crimson Tide, surviving that slate and coming into to Tuscaloosa and knocking off one the Tide seems unrealistic.
Given the physicality his teams at Wisconsin played with, it’s also hard to picture his new team beating Alabama at its own game in the trenches.
Alabama 42, Arkansas 17
For the fourth week in a row, Alabama will face a team playing with a new head coach. Butch Jones will get his first taste of one of the SEC’s oldest rivalries when the Vols travel to Bryant-Denny stadium in late October.
Like fellow SEC newcomers Stoops and Bielema, Jones is trying to overhaul a program that has fallen hard in recent years. Jones has managed to drum up the support of the Vols fanbase according to Steve Megargee of The Tennessean, but on the field, plenty of questions remain.
With plenty of new faces and a coaching transition to navigate, the Vols are unlikely to pose a serious threat to an established team like the Crimson Tide.
Expect Alabama to cruise to its seventh straight win over the Vols.
Alabama 45, Tennessee 14
Given the notable attrition from LSU’s roster, it’s unlikely that the Tigers will begin the 2013 campaign as a lock to be voted in the preseason Top Five as they did last season.
But make no mistake about it that Les Miles will once again field a club loaded with enough talent to compete for the Western division crown.
LSU and Alabama is a rivalry that has grown into one of the nation’s most anticipated annual showdowns. With the Tigers having won five of the last six meetings in Bryant-Denny Stadium, don’t be surprised if this meeting has similar stakes as their last meeting in Tuscaloosa in 2011.
The aforementioned bye week should be huge in helping the Tide put their full attention on what should be another slugfest between two of the country’s premier powers.
Alabama 23, LSU 21
The Crimson Tide thrashed the Bulldogs in a meeting of unbeatens last October and sent Dan Mullen’s club into a late season swoon that saw them finish 8-5 after starting 7-0.
But catching Alabama a week after what should be another slugfest against LSU (see Texas A&M game last season) could help their chances significantly against the Tide this fall.
The Tide struggled in Starkville in the same scenario back in 2011, before pulling away late for a 24-7 victory.
McCarron was still coming into his own as a sophomore then, but as he showed last season in picking apart the Bulldogs defense, he’s developed into one of the nation’s top passers.
With both of the Bulldogs starting corners (Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay) off to the NFL, McCarron should fare a lot better in his return trip to Davis-Wade Stadium.
Alabama 38, Mississippi State 17
The Mocs replace Western Carolina as the Tide’s traditional warm-up game scheduled for the week before the Iron Bowl.
This one should be over in short order, similar to last season’s 49-0 dismantling of the Catamounts.
Alabama 56, Chattanooga 0
The arrival of Gus Malzahn should give the Tigers a much-needed jolt after the rather tumultuous ending to the Gene Chizik era.
Malzahn assembled an impressive coaching staff, and there are still some talented players left on the roster from his previous tenure as the Tigers offensive coordinator.
With his first taste as a head coach in this series coming at home, expect the Tigers to come out and play inspired after the humbling defeats at the hands of the Tide in each of the last two seasons.
But with Alabama poised to continue its march towards another SEC West crown and potentially another BCS title berth, winning a third consecutive game against its most hated rivals could lead to another three-peat down the line.
Alabama 45 Auburn 24
Last season’s SEC title game between Alabama and Georgia was possibly the most thrilling meeting the league has seen since the conference championship game came into play in 1992.
Mark Richt’s Bulldogs—winners of the Eastern Division in each of the last two seasons—could very well make it three consecutive trips to the Georgia Dome on the first weekend in December.
They will have to once again battle South Carolina and Florida for that spot, but regardless of which team emerges from the East, any of the three perceived favorites from that side would prove to be a formidable opponent for the Tide.
Aaron Murray and the home-standing Dawgs get the nod for now, mainly because of the offensive issues still hounding both Florida and South Carolina.
Georgia’s defense must replace sack-master Jarvis Jones and three secondary starters that were chosen in last week’s NFL draft. But the early returns for Todd Grantham’s defense look promising (h/t ESPN).
While the Bulldogs will have revenge on their minds should they get the opportunity, the Tide have a significant advantage when comparing the two teams' recent history in big games. Georgia has the talent to get over the hump, but it’s hard to go against Saban and his team given their recent success on the big stage.
Alabama 31, Georgia 26
Saban’s dynasty arguably began when the Tide throttled Texas in the 2009 BCS title game in Pasadena.
There are no shortage of challengers hoping to end the SEC’s seven-year title-winning streak. Urban Meyer’s Ohio State squad will be a trendy pick to make it to Pasadena after going unbeaten in 2012.
But the Buckeyes must replace a significant chunk of its defense, and they got their share of breaks last season. Can they receive the same fortune with the pressure of staying perfect ramped up considerably in 2013?
Oregon brings back a loaded team this season, but Chip Kelly finally moved on to the NFL and the NCAA apparently is breathing down their necks according to Chip Patterson of CBS Sports.
Louisville could be another preseason media darling after dismantling SEC power Florida in the Sugar Bowl, but the memories of overrating the previous season’s Big East champion (West Virginia) coming into last season remain fresh.
Quietly lurking in the shadows is David Shaw’s Stanford program that has gone 35-5 with three consecutive trips to BCS bowls in the last three seasons. Quarterback Kevin Hogan is one of 16 returning starters for the Cardinal—who should open the season as the Pac-12 favorites along with the aforementioned Ducks.
Stanford plays a physical brand of football that in some ways mirror the way Alabama likes to play. The Cardinal may not have the depth of the Crimson Tide roster, but as their recent history has shown, they know how to get it done in big games against big and athletic clubs.
But as Saban and the Crimson Tide have shown, they operate on another level when the stakes are raised. With a third consecutive crystal football in their sights, Alabama will be prepared for whomever and whatever challenges stand between them and making history.
Alabama 34, Stanford 21