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Fast 40 countdown: Alabama Crimson Tide

August 30, 2011  |  By Benjamin Miraski

Alabama Crimson Tide

Last season: 10-3, 8th in the MRI

The good: The Alabama defense that gave up just 13.5 points per game and 286 yards is back almost intact. Just one starter is gone from last year, and although his name is Marcell Dareus, the Tide should be able to fill the hole. It is hard to believe that a defense like 2010's could get even better, but that appears to be the direction Alabama is heading.

The same story is true on the offensive side of the ball. While Mark Ingram is gone, Trent Richardson is still running for the Tide. Richardson may have been the better back in each of the last two seasons, no matter what the trophy on Ingram's mantle says. If Richardson stays healthy, he is running behind almost the exact same line that cleared the way for 183 yards on the ground per game. That number should only improve this year.

Alabama does need to break in a new quarterback and it appears it will be a two-man job going into the opener against Kent State. AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims will split time in the game as they were listed next to each other on the depth chart.

Having two guys who could potentially take the helm is not a bad situation for Alabama to have. And facing Kent State is not a bad time to try them out.

One player will need to emerge from the duo before the trip to Penn State, but for right now, having two young arms with this much talent is a bonus.

The bad: This team should be great, but I am not convinced. Perhaps it is playing the SEC; perhaps it is just having a new quarterback and not knowing who it will be.

But there is something unconvincing about Alabama no matter how good they look on paper.

The problem is that every other contender in the SEC West has its own issues. LSU has trouble with the law. Arkansas has injuries and a new quarterback. Mississippi State has yet to prove it is ready to compete every week with the leaders.

So is Alabama the best of that group? Yes, especially if LSU is without its quarterback for a significant time.

Is Alabama the best team in the country? Talent-wise, you have to say yes, with no offense to Oklahoma, Florida, or other places that recruit top talent.

But until they prove it on the field, this team doesn't have the same feeling as the one in 2009.

Best name: Xzavier Dickson

Trending: Flat - Before Tide fans start tar and feathering the MRI in the media, here is the rationale for saying that Alabama will hang at just about the same level this season in the rankings. In 2009, Alabama had a difficult time climbing above third in the computer rankings until its big win in the National Championship. After that win, the Tide jumped to No. 1. Before the final game, Alabama was just fifth according to the computer. And that was with a defense that far surpassed last season's model and a similar offensive effort. So to think that Alabama will jump much higher in the computer poll before a game has even been played is a little difficult to think right now. The Tide can still finish at the top, but until then, I think they might be underachieving. It is easy to predict an undefeated season right now, especially given the troubles at other schools, but there is always that one game that nags at you. I can't help but feel that a Florida, or an LSU can pull off the upset. Alabama will definitely be in the top five of the MRI this season, it is up to them to determine just which of the five.


Posted August 30, 2011 12:47 PM

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