Alabama QB AJ McCarron
Video game numbers? Alabama doesn't need your video game numbers.
While the college football world stood in awe of Texas A&M's high-octane offense last season led by Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, Alabama quietly went about its business doing what it does.
Winning at an elite level.
Generally regarded as a defense-first program, Alabama's 2012 offense proved that it was no slouch either, finishing as the SEC's fourth-best offense (445.5 YPG) despite having the luxury of calling off the dogs late in several games. Ten of their 13 wins were by 20 or more points.
It was another sign that Alabama is slowly but surely becoming more of an offensive-minded team. Well, at least one that can be when it wants to be.
The best is yet to come.
In fact, if you're judging offenses based on effectiveness rather than pure numbers, Alabama's offense may be the best in the SEC in 2013.
Quarterback A.J. McCarron led Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) quarterbacks in passing efficiency (175.28), tossing 30 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Wrongly labeled as a game manager, McCarron proved that he could be a gunslinger when needed—although those instances were few and far between.
He may get more of a chance this season, though.
Alabama has been churning out quality running backs during its dynasty, but the strength of this year's team will shift outside a bit thanks to wide receivers Amari Cooper, Chris Black, Kenny Bell, DeAndrew White, Kevin Norwood and incoming freshman Robert Foster.
Toss in a host of running backs including T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake, who can be dangerous as receivers and out of the backfield, and ultra-versatile freshman tight end O.J. Howard, and all of a sudden the passing game looks like it could be a strength for the Tide.
This offseason, my colleague at Your Best 11, Michael Felder, detailed in chalk talk just how dangerous Howard can be in this Alabama offense.
Plus, the Crimson Tide will get help up front.
Offensive line questions have persisted in Tuscaloosa this offseason, but former tackle D.J. Fluker wasn't exactly stellar in pass protection last season. Whether his replacement (Austin Shepherd or Leon Brown) is better or not, it's hard to imagine a scenario where the offensive line is as dominant as last season's.
That means more passing either by design or necessity, which plays into a strength of this season's Crimson Tide roster.
That's not to say that Alabama won't run the ball. It will early and often. But as opposed to three or four years ago, it doesn't have to in order to be successful.
This year's group of running backs, consisting of Yeldon, Derrick Henry, Drake, Jalston Fowler, Dee Hart, Alvin Kamara, Altee Tenpenny and Tyren Jones, is dynamic, versatile and deep, and gives offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier options.
Where will Alabama finish in the SEC in total offense in 2013?
Yeldon will be the feature back, but don't be surprised to see Henry and Fowler as short-yardage and goal-line specialists, Drake and Hart can be dangerous out of the backfield as receivers, and the newcomers can provide plenty of depth.
Statistically, will Alabama have the top offense in the SEC?
Of course not.
Texas A&M will fly up and down the field, Georgia may have to be more explosive if some of the newcomers on defense let the Bulldogs down, and Ole Miss has a small village returning off last year's offense.
But just because those teams may have better numbers doesn't make them the best. When all is said and done, don't be surprised if Alabama has the most effective offense in the SEC.