Posted: 12:00 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013
By Jacob Schildgen
What more is there to say about Alabama than what has already been discussed on every sports outlet in America?They are led by one of the best coaches in college sports, churn out NFL players like clockwork, have a legion of fans numbering more than the population of a small country; and oh, have won three of the last four national championship games without breaking a sweat. And this is what the Rams and Coach McElwain will face when they help the Crimson Tide open their home slate in front of 100,000 fans.
It is doubtful this game will be a close one, but there are plenty of story lines to follow to keep it an interesting affair. It will be the return of former Crimson Tide offensive co-ordinator Jim McElwain who helped Saban win his first championship in Tuscaloosa before leaving for Fort Collins. McElwain's knowledge of Saban and his coaching style may cut the Crimson Tide victory by a couple touchdowns, but it will not propel the Rams to a monumental upset. McElwain hopes to show his team what it takes mentally and physically to be the number one team in the country year after year. And not to be forgotten is the $1.5 million Alabama is paying Colorado State to play them at home.
Nick Saban (159-55, 88-19 at Alabama)
13-1 (7-1 in SEC)
Alabama started the 2012 season off with a bang with a thrashing of #8 Michigan in Jerry World, then reeled off seven straight blowouts before traveling to Baton Rouge in a pivotal matchup with #5 LSU. The winner of that game would most likely go on to represent the SEC West in the SEC championship and have a clear shot at making the National Championship game. Unlike the previous eight games, Alabama was constantly tested in Death Valley, requiring late heroics by AJ McCarron and the Alabama offense to escape with a 21-17 victory.
All signs pointed to a second straight trip to the National Championship game with three home games to close the regular season out; but then Johnny Manziel happened. Manziel and the Texas A&M; Aggies jumped all over a Tide squad worn-out from the LSU game and put up 20 points before Alabama was able to get on the board. McCarron did his best to help revive his team's chance for a victory, but threw an interception with less than two minutes remaining to seal the Tide's fate in a 29-24 home defeat.
With their title dreams severely threatened, the Crimson Tide took their disappointment out on Western Carolina and Auburn outscoring them 98-0 to secure their position atop the SEC West. With some help from the collapses of top ranked teams, Kansas State and Oregon, Alabama was suddenly back in the hunt and could secure a trip to Miami with a win in the SEC Championship game against #3 Georgia. They did just that and began prepping for an early January date with Notre Dame. When they stepped on the field of Sun Life Stadium in Miami, it was apparent they were the best team in college football despite their loss against Texas A&M.; They brutally and unapologetically dismantled the Irish so bad, the most dramatic scene of the game happened when McCarron and his center Barrett Jones got into a pushing match at the line of scrimmage. Now the Tide return with a preseason number 1 ranking and a third-straight national championship in sight.
What doesn't Alabama do well? They lose some key players from their offensive line, but with TJ Yeldon leading the rushing attack, they should be able to perform up to Coach Saban's expectations. In the passing game, McCarron and Cooper provide Saban with legitimate Heisman talent to utilize. McCarron is one of the best signal callers in the country and brings poise and experience unlike most players his age.
On the defensive side of the ball, a corps of extremely talented linebackers lead another year of explosive playmakers. And best amongst those is All-American CJ Mosley. Mosley led the team in tackles a year ago and is expected to be a leader on this squad. In the secondary, the Tide lost several key players to the draft, but will restock the cupboard with talented players who saw minutes last year.
In order to find weaknesses with this team you really have to nitpick, but there are some. Most of the issues are caused by the departure of big name players on the offensive and defensive lines. On the offensive line, gone are Barrett Jones, DJ Fluker, and Chance Warmack, each of whom were named All-Americans. It will be especially difficult to replace Jones who had quite a repertoire with McCarron and was responsible for making the calls on the line. Saban has certainly brought in players to fill these holes, but only time will tell if the reconfigured line can work together.
The defensive line returns one starter from last year and there are some questions who will be able to step into the shoes of the departing starters. The Tide will need players like Brandon Ivory, Ed Stinson, and Jeoffery Pagan to make contributions immediately.