Every championship season has its moments when the team's fortunes could have gone another way—a mistake here, a dropped pass on that play, a blown coverage there—and the season is lost.
Fortunately, the 2009 season for the University of Alabama had few of those moments, and, in each one, the ball bounced the Tide's way due to preparation, skill, coaching, and athleticism.
But what about 2010?
There are some games on each team's schedule that might be called "land mine" games; these are those games where your team might look like the better team on paper, but, due to other factors, those games "blow up" in your faces and hang an "L" on the schedule.
This list is not intended to be a doomsday, oh-woe-is-we prediction, but it serves us to know the realistic chances of the possibility that 'Bama's regular season win streak may be snapped this year.
Let's take a look at five games where the Tide might face an opponent and find that things might not go the way they did in 2009.
Game No. 2: Penn State.
The fear here is that PSU is largely an unknown for the Tide. They return a great running back in Evan Royster, who is likely to become the all-time rushing leader in Happy Valley, but does he have a line that can open holes for him?
Will the incredibly talented but largely untested 'Bama defense have time to jell before the Nittany Lions come calling in Tuscaloosa? And will Penn State, known as "Linebacker U," have enough of a defense to stop the 'Bama offensive juggernaut?
Early season games against ranked opponents have proven successful for the Tide in previous years (Clemson in '08, Va Tech in '09); let's hope it continues here. But remember that each of those victories in the past two seasons were closer than the final scores indicated.
Game No. 4: @ Arkansas.
It's no surprise to anyone reading this that if the Tide can keep the Hog offense off the field and avoid defensive mistakes when they are on it, 'Bama can win this game. Notice that, again, it may come down to a defense that must, absolutely must, mature and learn exponentially in the first three games before Alabama goes to Fayetteville.
Mallett and Co. have the horses to score and score quickly from anywhere on the field. The giant Razorback already holds over 15 school records.
Besides, the game's at their house this year, and Mallett is exceptionally tough at home.
Game No. 5: Florida.
No rest for the weary. Florida comes to Tuscaloosa with a pretty big revenge motive after the thrashing the Tide gave the Gators last December.
With so much focus on All-Everything Tim Tebow for so long, many fans across the nation forget that coach Urban Meyer's team is as chock full of talent as Coach Sabans's is.
Besides the usual cast of extraordinary athletes returning off a 13-1 team, the Gators also bring in what is arguably the best recruiting class in the nation. Junior John Brantley, Tebow's heir, can throw as well if not better than his predecessor (Brantley holds the school boy record for touchdowns in Florida by one over—guess who?—Tebow).
So, the Gators will be primed and loaded.
Game No. 9: @ LSU
Do we have to go through this, this, this...Saban Hating thing every time we go to Red Stick? Do we? Apparently, yes; we do.
The Bengal Tigers will be up for this game, and it won't be easy for the Tide to win (when is it against LSU?), but the good news here is that 'Bama will be coming off its bye week.
And, like Florida, LSU always manages to grab enough good talent every year to keep up with 'Bama's speed and strength.
These guys are annoying. And they might just be playing for coach Les Miles's job at that point. 'Bama needs to shellac them and let LSU go back to being coached by the likes of Curley Hallman.
Game Nos. 6 (@ S. Carolina), 7 (Ole Miss), 8 (@ Tenn), 10 (Miss. St), and 12 (Auburn).
See that big bulls-eye on the back of our team's crimson jerseys this year? It's there because of who we are and what we did last season. This is the SEC. Every week, every game, is a potential upset. The quality in the conference is that good.
Remember 2008, when Ole Miss upset Florida? Do you remember how that happened (besides Tebow having an "off" day)? It was a special teams breakdown by Florida that allowed the Rebels to hand the Gators their last defeat before the Tide did it this past December in Atlanta.
So, do we need reminding that the entire special teams skill people for the Tide must be replaced? That special teams will be left largely in the hands of newcomers or those with little or no college experience? Would the 2009 UT game have the same outcome if one Tide field goal snap was off, one kick was rushed, or one hold bobbled?
And don't discount, no matter what you hear elsewhere, the off week many of our SEC opponents are getting the week before they play us. That may make a difference in any one of these games. Look at the advantage it gave Tennessee and Auburn—two of the closest Tide victories a season ago.
Besides, the South Carolina and Tennessee games are away.
Are we suggesting that Alabama will lose all these games? Certainly not! But all of these facts combined mean that the Tide cannot afford to overlook any one of these opponents; every week in conference is a challenge and a potential upset.
Think about this, too: Knowing how incredibly talented this conference is makes one appreciate the herculean task the Tide's accomplished by going undefeated in the conference the past two years.
Will we make it a third?