Nick Saban and Alabama have won three BCS National Championships in four years, two of which are consecutive.
In other words, the Crimson Tide are an even strong point of emphasis for anyone facing them in 2013.
Alabama will once again receive the A-game from its competition regardless of the opponent. Therefore, specific keys will be required to run the [SEC] table.
Given that the Tide did fall to Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M a season ago, anything can obviously happen. To that end, let's analyze how Alabama can fend off everyone and solidify its 21st century dynasty even more.
Early emphasis of the ground game
Losing three offensive linemen—Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker and Barrett Jones—to the 2013 NFL draft, and it's reasonable to be concerned about Saban's rushing attack.
Not to mention running back Eddie Lacy's departure to the pros.
Well, Alabama must establish this aspect right as the season kicks off. T.J. Yeldon ran for 1,108 yards and scored 12 times on the ground in 2012, so he has to get going immediately.
Expect defenses to stack the box as well because Alabama's ability to control the line of scrimmage has been a key to its recent dominance. Slamming with Yeldon, though, and forcing an opponent into making itself vulnerable in coverage is to the Tide's advantage.
As we see next, maintaining a strong and physical approach opens up the rest of the playbook.
Let A.J. McCarron rip it more often
With the establishment of the ground game, A.J. McCarron can take even more advantage of the play-action pass.
We saw glimpses of this last year, especially in the deep score to receiver Amari Cooper in the SEC title game. Having tossed 30 touchdowns to a mere three picks including a 67.2 completion percentage, McCarron's decision-making and accuracy is unquestioned.
Ripping it downfield more, however, requires an even stronger arm. As Duane Rankin of USA Today wrote on April 19, Saban commented on his quarterback:
"His arm is even stronger now than it was before, which is one of things that we wanted to work on with him," Tide coach Nick Saban said. "He's more consistently getting his lower body into his throws, which helps."
So, expect McCarron to receive the green light much more than he did a season ago. Despite his incredible marksmanship, McCarron attempted fewer passes last fall than in 2011.
Fortunately his yards per attempt (9.3) are quite high for not dropping back as much as most college quarterbacks. Ultimately, having more opportunities to shred a defense simply makes Alabama that much tougher to stop.
Increase the pass rush
Alabama had the best defense in 2012, and it's easy to anticipate that again this fall.
That said, Saban's crew can only get better with an upgraded pass rush. Recording 35 sacks last year, the Crimson Tide's non-dominant rush was partially why Manziel was able to dazzle Saban in Tuscaloosa.
Now Alabama remains stellar, courtesy of playmakers such as C.J. Mosley (107 tackles, four sacks) and Adrian Hubbard (seven sacks). But turning up the pressure on opposing quarterbacks just creates an extension of turnover opportunities and forces more punts.
Backed by an offense that possesses balance mixed with explosiveness, more production regarding backfield disruption will make Bama unimaginably dominant.
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