The Alabama Crimson Tide don’t need a lesson on how to win big games. With three national titles in the last four years, a tremendously talented roster that continues getting better with every recruiting class and one of the best coaches in college football, the Tide appear poised to roll through the regular season and into the BCS championship again this year.
The SEC presents a tough row to hoe, however. As is the case every season, Alabama will find a number of potential pitfalls awaiting it on the 2013 slate.
And then there’s the matter of NFL talent being consistently churned out of the nation’s top program. While Nick Saban’s tremendous recruiting classes always fill the voids left by departing NFL hopefuls, youth and inexperience can wreak havoc on even the best teams.
The Crimson Tide will be the prohibitive favorite to win it all again this year, but nothing is guaranteed. Several difficult obstacles stand in the way of a third straight national title in 2013.
Let’s take a look at three of the biggest potential pitfalls facing Alabama this season and break down its chances of evading a regular-season stumble to secure a place in the national title game.
Alabama churns out more NFL talent than any program in the nation, and while that turnover hasn’t cost the Crimson Tide any championship opportunities of late, there’s always the potential for that trend to change.
Despite bringing in the country’s top recruiting class again this year, Saban has to be cautious about how he replaces talented playmakers like Dee Milliner, Eddie Lacy and Jesse Williams and three-fifths of his starting offensive line in D.J. Fluker, Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones.
Easily the deepest roster in the nation, Alabama shouldn’t have a hard time replacing that production in 2013, but there’s something to be said for continuity in college football. Should the 2012 departures’ replacements not immediately settle into those roles early in the season, Alabama may find itself in some tight contests in SEC play.
An Early-Season Grudge Match
Alabama’s November 10 loss to Texas A&M was one of the most memorable games of the 2012 season. While the Crimson Tide evaded being bounced from the title game as a result, there’s no question they will have their sights fixed on revenge on September 14.
Scheduling the Aggies early in the season will be both a curse and a blessing. On one hand, losing to Johnny Manziel’s squad again would be a critical blow to Alabama’s title hopes, but it would also give the Crimson Tide enough time to recover from the loss and still find a place in the BCS championship.
Texas A&M also experienced hefty roster turnover this offseason with the losses of Damontre Moore and Luke Joeckel (among others), but its offense is an especially dangerous unit with Manziel under center. If Alabama can’t adjust to fielding a bevy of fresh faces by this contest, the hunt for the SEC title could get awfully interesting.
Les is (Sometimes) More
LSU had an uncharacteristically weak season at 10-3 last year, but Les Miles’ squad is an always dangerous opponent, especially late in the season with so much at stake.
It’s hard to forget the duels between the two teams in 2011. The first a 9-6 LSU overtime win and the second a 21-0 Alabama win in the national title game, the 2011 season held a couple memorable clashes between two of the SEC’s elite squads.
Alabama managed to escape from Baton Rouge with a hard-fought 21-17 victory last season, but the close contests in recent years between the two teams have set the stage for another tremendous rivalry game this year.
As long as Miles and Saban are at the helm of the SEC’s premier programs, this matchup will continue to be a critical showdown with title implications.