The Alabama Crimson Tide still have one game left to play in the 2012 season, but one sports outlet already has them at the head of the 2013 pack.
Athlon Sports writer Steven Lassan has published his very early college football top 25, and has Alabama as his pick to start next season on top. The Crimson Tide sits at No. 1 on the list, with Ohio State, Oregon, LSU and Georgia rounding out the top five.
In making his case for ranking Alabama at the top, Lassan points to the return of quarterback AJ McCarron, who announced this week he would be back for his senior season, as well as rising sophomores TJ Yeldon and Amari Cooper.
In addition to Cooper, McCarron will have targets like Chris Black and Kenny Bell. Black and Bell suffered season-ending injuries in 2012; Black was hurt during Spring scrimmages and Bell suffered a broken leg during the Auburn game.
While McCarron will have plenty of help on offense next year, he will be taking snaps behind a retooled offensive line. Seniors Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack will be gone and D.J. Fluker is likely entering the NFL Draft after this season concludes.
Still, as Lassan says, Alabama’s bread and butter will be what it always has been under Nick Saban:
While the offensive line could be a work in progress early in the year, the defense will once again be one of the best in the nation. Alabama continues to stockpile talent on the recruiting trail, so help on both sides of the ball could come in the form of a few prospects in the 2013 class.
It’s never too early to engage in what-ifs about the future, especially where sports is concerned. And while some will say that we should let the BCS Championship play itself out before looking to next season, it’s fun to speculate – especially if it means Alabama is at the top of the heap again.