Five Things the Alabama Crimson Tide Must Avoid If They're to Win an SEC Title

Douglas WebbCorrespondent IAugust 26, 2009

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 24:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide argues with head linesman GA Gus Morris III while taking on the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 24, 2007 in Auburn, Alabama.    (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

With so much focus being put towards what it will take for Alabama to be successful on the season, I thought in this one that I would focus on things the Crimson Tide needs to avoid if it hopes to win its first SEC title in a decade.

There are countless things that the Tide needs to avoid this season, from simplistic ones like losses to some of the less obvious ones I listed below.

So without further ado...

5. Law troubles and troubles with the NCAA

Look, no one expects these kids to live in a vacuum. They have to keep up with classwork, workouts, and practices. When they do have some free time, it's reasonable to expect them to want to blow off a little steam

You have to expect a certain amount of discipline issues at any school. You can only hope that the issues are at a minimum and don't affect key players on your depth chart.

Problems with the law aren't the only issue they could face. There is also the possibility of student-athletes running afoul of NCAA rules.

Once that happens, schools face tough decisions regarding the player's eligibility. Even if they run an investigation and find that it clears the player, once they have turned over their findings to the NCAA, there are no guarantees of getting a favorable response.

That, of course, means you have to sit the player out while waiting for a positive response. No head coach is likely to take the chance of playing what could turn out to be an ineligible player.

4. Julio Jones being the only wide receiver involved in the passing game

Last year there were two schools of thought. The first was that no one other than Jones stepped up and was ready to play. The second was that quarterback John Parker Wilson did a poor job of going through his progressions, instead choosing to lock onto Jones. The few times he didn't lock onto Jones were on designed plays to the tight end.

Word out of fall camp was that Greg McElroy has done a great job of spreading the ball around to his receiving corps. He's done so against a very strong defense—easily one of the best in the country. So any issues with the quarterback seem to be a thing of the past.

Now it's time for a talented Alabama receiving corps to step up and make plays. Guys like Marquis Maze, Earl Alexander, Darius Hanks, and Mike McCoy must prove they can get open and make plays. If they can't, there are younger targets behind them such as Kevin Norwood and Michael Bowman.

There are no excuses left.

3. Greg McElroy taking the offense on his shoulders

The Tide need a quarterback that is capable of managing games. What it cannot afford is for McElroy to produce needless turnovers. Early in the year it is likely the staff will opt to use a lot of short routes and play action passes in an attempt to create mismatches and one-on-one matchups. That should also help build McElroy's confidence.

Last year's starter Wilson was effective as a quarterback because he respected the fact that the Tide was a running team first and foremost. He played within his own skillset and didn't try to do more than he was capable of.

McElroy has a stronger arm and is reportedly better at seeing the field and reading defenses. That alone should lead to better passing statistics. There's no need to try to force things.

2. The Tide's offensive line can't afford to listen to its critics

They've heard the criticisms all offseason. Skeptics say there is little chance they can perform at the level of last year's line. They say there's no way they can replace All-Americans Andre Smith and Antoine Caldwell.

To a point, that is true. Players of that caliber are hard to find.

The truth is, though, they don't have to replace those two spots with equal talent to be a solid quality line. The players that return from last year have improved. James Carpenter, on the other hand, is a quality replacement at left tackle. No, he's not Andre Smith, but that doesn't mean he can't be a quality tackle.

The O-line's success will likely hinge on two newcomers, William Vlachos at center and Barrett Jones at right guard. If the two of them can perform come gametime the way they have in practice, the Tide should be fine.

Another plus over last year is depth. Last year's group was limited depth-wise, and it showed when replacements were called for. This year's group has quality backups at most every position.

What this line has going for it most of all is that it faces the best front seven in college football every day in practice. You don't go up against a defense of that quality day in and day out without earning your stripes.

1. Letdowns

Alabama went 12 consecutive weeks last year without suffering a loss. After a heartbreaking loss in the SEC Championship Game, the Tide suffered a huge letdown in the Sugar Bowl. That is something you can't do against teams as strong as Utah.

Now I'm sure your reasonably sensible Alabama fan fully expects the Tide to once again go undefeated. Considering last year's national champs couldn't pull it off, it's highly unlikely the Tide can do it two years in a row.

Rarely do teams win SEC division crowns, much less conference championships, without suffering a regular season loss.

So if the Tide were to suffer a regular season loss, they have to be able to put it behind them this time and do what their coach has drilled into them all offseason.


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