Why Alabama Will Be in the Hunt In 2009

Jonathan KelleyCorrespondent IJuly 24, 2009

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 06:  Julio Jones #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide tackled by Joe Haden #5 and Major Wright #21 of the Florida Gators during the SEC Championship on December 6, 2008 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia. The Gators defeated the Crimson Tide 31-20.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

The University of Alabama Crimson Tide has had more than its fair share of ups and downs over the past decade.

In 1999, it beat Florida twice in the same year, a feat no other team has yet to accomplish, and brought home the SEC championship. It followed that up by losing a heartbreaker of a game to Michigan in a BCS-bowl-game classic. That was the highlight of the decade until last year.

Sure, Alabama went 10-2 in 2005 and destroyed Florida in T-town, had Prothro make the greatest catch ever, and even had the best defensive outing I have ever seen against Tennessee, but according to the NCAA, none of that ever happened.

Last year, fans came out of the woodworks after the Clemson beat-down and if they weren't on the bandwagon, they were on it after the Blackout Blowout. Things could not have gone better for the Tide during the regular season.

Then came the SEC title game and Florida's day in the sun. Anyone who thinks Tim Tebow can not make it as a pro quarterback did not watch the same game I did. This was by far the best championship game played in Atlanta since 1992, when Antonio Langham's interception secured a trip to New Orleans for the Tide.

This was also the downhill slide of the team coming off a tremendous high, crushing in-state rival Auburn and taking the lead into the third quarter over Florida before tragedy struck in the fourth quarter.

It is no real surprise that Utah beat the Tide in the Sugar Bowl. Utah was a great team with plenty to prove, and Alabama was still wondering, "What if?" Now the question is what will happen? Can Nick Saban ride the crimson wave to Pasadena?

The answer is yes! This team can win the SEC title and even the national title. However, it will take determination, hard work, discipline, and the ability to muster up pose when times are hard. The questions concerning this team are the offensive line and the quarterback, safety, and No. 2 receiver positions?

These questions already have answers. 

The offensive line will be manageable. Joe Pendry would not send an offensive line on the field that cannot protect its quarterback, especially with Nick Saban as head coach.

Greg McElroy will be a sufficient QB. Let's face it. John Parker-Wilson is not going to be a Pro Bowler in my lifetime, yet he still managed to be Moses for the Tide last year. He took Alabama to the mountain top and showed the Tide the Promised Land but could not take them there himself.

Greg McElroy may be the man to do it.

Robby Green is not going to be the NCAA's best DB, but he also does not have to be. All he has to do is listen, play with intensity, and avoid mistakes.

Rolando McClain will be the leader of this fantastic defense.

On offense, Kenny Bell, Marquis Maze, Kendall Kelly, Kevin Norwood, Michael Bowman, Mike McCoy, or Darius Hanks will step up and take the heat of Julio Jones. If none of these guys can manage that feat, Colin Peak is a proven commodity who will give teams trouble over the middle.

All in all, the Crimson Tide has the weapons in place to continue rolling on. The only real problem is that many other teams do as well.

Ole Miss is, well, Ole Miss, but even they should be contending this year for the West crown. It will take a masterful display of stupidity and mistakes to lose three games on their part.

LSU may not have a genius at the helm, but he sure is one lucky SOB.  He is surrounded by talent and should be able to, at least, scare the crap out the teams they play this year.

Bobby Petrino will take Arkansas to a bowl this year; it may be the Independence Bowl, but it will still be a bowl. Alabama should make sure it is not upsetted during Arkansas's journey to a bowl. 

Auburn will either surprise everyone and have a magical year, or it will be asking why didn't we hire Turner Gill or interview Charlie Strong.

Lastly, Dan Mullen will turn Mississippi State around; it won't be this year or the next, but he will get something going in Starksville.

The bottom line is Alabama has the best chance to win the West this year. If it does, barring a miracle, it will once again face Tim Tebow and Florida. If history is an indicator of things to come, then maybe Alabama will be the 1993 Flordia Gators, and the Gators will be the Tide.

Either way, it will be a game worth watching and if you win the SEC title with less than two loses, you are going to the BCS National Championship Game. The only real question concerning the Crimson Tide is one posed by Nick Saban, "How bad do you want it?"