Will the Alabama Crimson Tide become the first team since World War Two to win three consecutive national championships?
Although a lot of things can happen before the 2013 campaign gets underway, there are plenty of reasons to believe that ‘Bama will pull off this very rare trifecta.
Sure, they’ll lose several key players — including All-Americans Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and Dee Milliner — but the Tide will welcome back 13 starters from last year’s championship squad. That total doesn’t include explosive RB TJ Yeldon, who should contend for all-conference honors this season now that he won’t have to split carries with NFL-bound Eddie Lacy.
In addition to its talent and experience, Alabama has another advantage this year: the schedule. Unlike previous seasons, where the Red Elephants had to endure some absolutely brutal three-game stretches, this year’s slate puts them in prime position to capture a third straight crystal football.
A closer look at the 2013 docket will bear this out.
There’s no other way to say it: the Crimson Tide should breeze through their non-conference schedule. The season opener against the Virginia Tech Hokies might look like a dogfight on paper, but Frank Beamer’s squad returns just four starters on offense, and will have the added disadvantage of learning a new system.
That hardly sounds like a unit capable of moving the ball against a veteran ‘Bama D, which led the nation in rushing defense, total defense and scoring defense last year.
After the Kickoff Classic in Atlanta, it’s all smooth sailing for the Tide in non-league play. The Colorado State Rams, Georgia State Panthers and Chattanooga Moccasins simply don’t have the athletes to compete with the defending national champions.
The SEC slate also sets up well for a big season. Sure, there’s no such thing as an easy game in the nation’s toughest conference, but Alabama’s 2013 schedule is more favorable than it’s been in a long time.
Of the eight opponents the Crimson Tide plays this year, four of them (Kentucky Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Tennessee Volunteers and Auburn Tigers) will be dealing with growing pains as they adjust to new head coaches.
In addition, ‘Bama has an open week before playing both the Texas A&M Aggies and LSU Tigers. While the extra week of practice doesn’t guarantee a UA victory, we’ve all seen what Nick Saban’s staff can do with more time to prepare … just ask the Notre Dame Fighting Irish!
That leaves just the Ole Miss Rebels and Mississippi State Bulldogs to worry about. Although each of these teams exceeded expectations last year, neither of them has beaten the Tide since 2007. In fact, the last time either of these schools posted a win against a team with a winning record from a major conference (except each other) was back in 2010.
Make no mistake about it: Alabama will almost certainly start the season at No. 1 in the polls because its roster is loaded with next-level talent.
However, thanks to a favorable regular season schedule, it’s even more likely that the men in Crimson will finish the year exactly where they started it.