SportsRatings 2012 College Football Pre-season Top 124
|Alabama Crimson Tide (SEC #1; West #1)
|Record: 12-1||Strength:#1 Success:#2 Overall:#1|
|AP #1 USA #1||Bowl: Beat LSU 21-0 (BCS Championship)
|Record: 10-2||Picks: Lindy's #3; Athlon #3; Steele #4
|AP #2 USA #2
||Bowl: BCS Championship (Eligibility odds: 99.9%)
Alabama is just a few points away from being as good as last year; will it be enough to repeat as national champs?
|'11 Scoring Offense: #20 (raw) #11 (adjusted for competition)|
|'12 Projected Scoring Offense: #16 (adjusted)
Losing Trent Richardson and a slew of receivers knocks the offense down a bit, but not all that much.
|'11 Passing Rank: #71 (raw) #57 (adjusted)||'11 Sacks Allowed (adj.): #32|
|'12 Projected Passing Rank: #57 (adjusted)
||'12 Sacks Allowed (proj.): #31|
A.J. McCarron is a game-management quarterback like his predecessor Greg McElroy. Last year McCarron showed good accuracy (67%) and caution (5 interceptions) but no gaudy numbers (2,634 passing yards, 16 touchdowns). This year he loses his top four pass catchers—Marquis Maze (627 yards) and three others who combined for over 1,000. Kenny Bell is the leading returnee with 255, and highly-touted Duron Carter ended up at Florida Atlantic. The offensive line should be strong again, however, and other receivers will step up with help from a more experienced McCarron. Not much is asked of the passing game and it will remain average and efficient.
|Rushing||'11 Rushing Rank: #16 (raw) #13 (adjusted)||'11 Projected Rushing Rank: #19 (adj.)
Trent Richardson had a near-Heisman worthy 2012, rushing for 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns. With his absence Eddie Lacy will be the feature back; he had 674 yards last year with a 7.1 average. Jalston Fowler (385 yards) should be a strong backup. The offensive line returns 4 of the 5 most-frequent starters as Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack, and D.J. Fluker are back with Anthony Steen. The ground game might not match what it did with Richardson present as Lacy has lingering injury issues, but it should be nearly as strong.
|'11 Adjusted Stats:||Rush Defense: #1 Pass Defense per-game: #1 Per-attempt: #1|
|'11 Scoring Defense: #1 (raw) #1 (adjusted)||'11 sacks: #16||'11 picks: #27|
|'12 Projected Scoring Defense: #1 (adjusted)
||'12 sacks: #45||'12 picks: #43|
Alabama has had the best scoring defense three years running. Can they again, despite losing so many starters on this side of the ball? We can look back at 2010 for the answer. That year Alabama lost 9 defensive starters from their 2009 championship team. By the end of the season, they once again had the best opponent-adjusted scoring defense. Last year's defense was even better than that 2009 defense, and they return more starters. So the answer is, yes, it is possible.
Last year's defense was 1st against the run and #1 against the pass, either on per-game or per-play adjusted figures (for completeness' sake, yes, they were also #1 against the run on a per-play basis). And of course, they had the #1 scoring defense, raw or adjusted. This year you'll notice a lot of slippage in some areas. Sacks: the pass rush will not be as strong. That's largely due to losing Courtney Upshaw (9.5 sacks) at linebacker. They also lose #1 tackler Dont'a Hightower there, while Nico Johnson returns. The 3-man defensive line is in good shape, however, with two starters back. The secondary loses three starters including Mark Barron and DeQuan Menzie (11 pass breakups); we project fewer interceptions this season.
Our verdict? Alabama was far ahead of everyone on defense; only LSU came close at all, and they lost Tyrann Mathieu. The Tide D has done it three years in a row, so it's up to someone else to prove they're better.
- Kicking Game: Alabama had trouble on field goals outside the 40, making only 4 of 15. Cade Foster handled the longer kicks and was 2 of 9, while Jeremy Shelley was 21 of 27 overall. Both are back along with punter Cody Mandell (39.3 average).
- Return Game: Marquise Maze had a great 28.5 average on kickoff returns and 13.2 on punts with one touchdown last year. Taking over will be Christian Jones.
- Turnovers projection: Alabama's defense will probably have fewer interceptions this year as a result of turnover in the secondary (no pun intended).
Coaching/Recruiting 2012 Recruiting Rank: #3 2011 Recruiting Rank: #3
Nick Saban apparently plans on keeping Alabama a dynasty as he just brought in another top 5 recruiting class. Safety Landon Collins from Louisiana is one of the top recruits at safety in the nation and should help out on the secondary this season.
Things started to get boring right away watching the Tide last season. Clearly outmatching their foes on both sides of the ball, they wiped out teams with great defenses (Penn State 27-11) and offenses (Arkansas 38-14) alike, never allowing more than two touchdowns by an offense (Georgia Southern's third TD came on a kick return). They even held Auburn's offense scoreless (42-14, with one defensive touchdown, another on a kick return). The loss to LSU at home had to sting, and the offense seemed to lose confidence for a bit, limping to 24 points against Mississippi State while the defense allowed way too much from Georgia Southern, but the Auburn game got them pepped up to get revenge on the Tigers, which they did, using their dominant defense—and Nick Saban outcoaching Les Miles—to get a 21-0 win.
Alabama 2012 schedule & forecast
Straight up: 11-1 Cume: 10-2 Undefeated: 13%
Ok, we understand—it's tough playing in the SEC It guarantees upward of 8 tough games during the season. And Michigan is a legit BCS conference school. But really, does even that justify scheduling two schools from the Sun Belt, in addition to an FCS school?
Between those three games and Mississippi, that's virtually four guaranteed wins for any good team. Four other games are pretty certain wins, well, because Alabama is so good. That leaves maybe four challenges: Michigan, at Arkansas, at Missouri, and of course at LSU.
Alabama and LSU are so close in ranking that the home field determines the winner, while the other three games are considered fairly wide wins for the Tide. But it's enough to reduce the cumulative projection to 10-2, even as the most likely outcome is 11-1.
Obviously the Michigan and LSU games are the big ones, and Arkansas gives them three top ten teams on the schedule. If the Tide (or any SEC team) goes undefeated they're a shoe-in for the BCS title game, and they're a good candidate with one loss—unless that loss is to an undefeated Michigan or LSU.
But as we found out last year, even the latter doesn't always apply. As our #2 team, we put Alabama in the national championship game against USC, regardless of what the game-by-game results say.
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SportsRatings 2012 College Football Pre-season Top 124