5 Reasons Alabama Won’t Repeat as BCS National Champions


The Alabama Crimson Tide football team will take another crack at repeating as BCS National Champions in 2012, and last week, I gave you an optimistic list of five reasons why they will win their third title in four years.

This week, in the spirit of objectivity, I give you five reasons why Nick Saban will not be hoisting his fourth crystal ball at season’s end.

Leaders, ‘swag’ depleted on defense.  Although there will be a plethora of talent replacing the likes of Dont’a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and Dre Kirkpatrick, it is yet to be seen if their replacements possess the same ability to lead a championship-caliber defense. Hightower, the quarterback of last year’s top-ranked defense in the country and unquestioned leader in the locker room, is off to the New England Patriots to try his hand in the NFL. His trendsetting persona and innate ability to ‘rally the troops’ will be sorely missed at the linebacker position next year. What Hightower was to discipline in 2011, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was to ‘swagger’ – a self-coined term describing the Cincinnati Bengals’ first-round pick’s confident, aggressive style of play. Unmistakably, Kirkpatrick’s swagger rubbed off on his teammates, which in turn allowed Alabama to retain its’ ‘not-to-be-denied’ mentality after a crushing regular season loss to LSU.  As of now, the 2012 roster appears to be depleted of swag.

The Trent Richardson effect.  For the first time in four years, Alabama does not have a surefire Heisman Trophy candidate at running back, and will rely on a running back-by-committee to replace the departed Trent Richardson. While junior Eddie Lacy is slated to be the starter next year, junior Jalston Fowler, redshirt freshman Dee Hart and true freshman T.J. Yeldon will all push Lacy and his troubled toe for the 540 carries Richardson leaves behind. In his three years at the Capstone, Richardson amassed 4,580 total yards (3,130 rushing, 730 receiving, 720 return) and 43 total touchdowns (31 rushing, 7 receiving, 1 return). It will be an uphill battle for the aforementioned four players to live up to the expectations set by their predecessor.

Schedule.  The schedule is normally a cause for a concern for Alabama when it is an even-numbered year. The Crimson Tide will open the year in Dallas at the ‘Jerry-Dome’ in a much-anticipated matchup against Michigan. Second-year head coach Brady Hoke seems to have rejuvenated the Wolverines football program after leading them to an 11-2 record in 2011 and an overtime victory in the Sugar Bowl over Virginia Tech. Two weeks later, Alabama will open SEC play on the road against a dangerous Arkansas team led by Heisman candidate Tyler Wilson. From there the Tide will have to finagle around house calls to Missouri, Tennessee and the toughest game on the schedule, against LSU. While Nick Saban will be busy hosting Dan Mullen and his Mississippi State Bulldogs the week before the showdown in Baton Rouge,  Les Miles will have a bye week to prepare his team for what is sure to be a revenge game for the Bengal Tigers after their BCS debacle in January.

Lack of experience at Wide Receiver.  Gone is Marquis Maze, Darius Hanks, Brandon Gibson and pass-catching tight end Brad Smelley, taking with them the bulk of Alabama’s receiver production. While none of them were elite talents, they provided first-year quarterback AJ McCarron reliable targets. Maze proved to be a playmaker at receiver for Alabama, finishing his career with 136 receptions, 1,844 yards and eight touchdowns, but more importantly, he served as one the premier punt return men in the country. Altogether, the four receivers totaled 293 receptions for 3,759 yards and 20 touchdowns. Next year’s starting receiver rotation will consist of sophomore Christion Jones and juniors Kevin Norwood and Kenny Bell.

Kicking game.  Although Jeremy Shelley booted a record five field goals in Alabama’s BCS National Championship victory over LSU, the Crimson Tide kicking game remains in limbo. Senior Shelley will return next season, along with junior Cade Foster. Added to the mix will be highly-touted true freshman Adam Griffith. Shelley and Foster split the field goal duties last season, with Shelly typically responsible for kicks of 43 yards or shorter, and Foster taking over for longer kicks. The two combined to miss four field goals in Alabama’s only loss last season to LSU, and if not for some ridiculous losses by Oklahoma State, Boise State, Oregon and Stanford, the misses would have cost their team a championship. Shelley is 33-44 on field goals for his career, while Foster is .500 for his career at 9-18. Foster will return as the kickoff man, but he underwhelmed last season as his kickoffs were consistently short, giving opponents favorable field position. If the kicking game remains the same, Alabama’s chances at repeating will be about as good as Foster or Shelley making a 50-yard field goal.

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