Just look at Alabama’s recruiting.
Just look at the 2013 schedule.
Just look at the rest of college football.
Yes, Alabama will lose key seniors like Barrett Jones, and juniors like Eddie Lacy, Dee Milliner and D.J. Fluker declaring for the NFL draft will hurt. Then again, attrition hasn’t kept the Crimson Tide from winning three out of the past four national championships.
Attrition hasn’t kept Alabama from winning 10 or more games in five straight seasons, 12 or more in four of those seasons. It just doesn’t impact Alabama’s program under Nick Saban, not like it does most other programs around the country.
Those recruiting sites that have Saban’s classes consistently ranked among the nation’s best must be right. It’s consistently translating to championships on the field and No. 1 rankings in the polls.
Speaking of recruiting rankings, Rivals.com has Alabama’s current list of 20 public commitments for 2013 ranked fourth in the country. Scout says eighth, and 24/7sports says No. 1.
Good luck in the NFL, Eddie Lacy, MVP of the Bowl Championship Series final. Rising sophomore T.J. Yeldon looks plenty ready to step into the role of primary ball carrier, and commit Altee Tenpenny might be the next Yeldon as a true freshman.
That’s how it works at Alabama these days. Much as it was in the Bear Bryant days, it’s next man up.
Saban will trot out another team of well-disciplined talent, and it will face a schedule that should make anyone wonder why Saban would ever consider going back to the NFL.
In the NFL, the Super Bowl winner faces the toughest schedule the following season. Alabama, fresh off its 42-14 drubbing of Notre Dame in the BCS final, will play a schedule that looks designed to reward success.
Between Sept. 21 and Nov. 9, Alabama will play two three-game homestands. LSU looks to be easily the toughest opponent coming to Bryant-Denny Stadium, and Alabama gets an open date before playing the Tigers.
As for teams Alabama will play away from Bryant-Denny, season-opening opponent Virginia Tech did nothing this season to make anyone think the Hokies are ready to challenge Alabama anywhere, let alone Atlanta.
Season-ending opponent Auburn is coming off its worst season in 60 years. Playing at Jordan-Hare Stadium and strong staff hires for new head coach Gus Malzahn hardly seem reasons to believe the Tigers will make up the gulf between them and Alabama in one year.
By far the scariest game away from Bryant-Denny will come Sept. 14 at College Station, Texas, where the one team that beat Alabama in 2012 awaits. Texas A&M will have Heisman Trophy quarterback Johnny Manziel back and the “12th Man.”
Then again, Alabama will have an open date before that game. It won’t be like 2012, when A&M came a week after LSU and was the third ranked opponent in as many weeks, and Alabama still came two yards short of winning despite the Aggies’ 20-0 start.
There’s every reason to believe Alabama will get through the regular season with no worse than one loss and play in the SEC Championship again. If the Tide wins — which almost didn’t happen in 2012 — then that likely means another berth in the BCS final.
Who looks ready to challenge Alabama in Pasadena?
Notre Dame has a strong coach in Brian Kelly, who announced he will return after flirting with NFL offers. He’s patterning his program after Alabama and others among the SEC elite.
But the Fighting Irish will lose linebacker Manti Te’o, the heart and soul of the defense that got them to the BCS final in 2012. They also lose tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Theo Riddick, keys to their offense.
Ohio State is interesting. Sanctions kept the Buckeyes from postseason contention this season, but they finished unbeaten in a weak Big Ten Conference. They’ll be eligible next season and have a coach who knows about how the SEC has won seven BCS titles in a row; Urban Meyer won two of them at Florida.
Still, Ohio State must replace seven defensive starters.
Chip Kelly’s decision to stay in the college ranks means Oregon, which has played in four consecutive BCS bowls and was the 2010 BCS runner-up, figures to be in the conversation again. The Ducks would have been a better matchup for Alabama in this season’s BCS final.
Then again, they lose running back Kenjon Barner, four offensive linemen and their two top tacklers.
The season that just ended proved, once again, that Alabama’s top challengers remain in the SEC. SEC competition gave Alabama three scares this season, and the Tide survived two of them.
Assuming Alabama again comes up with a big drive (LSU) or key defensive play (Georgia) when needed, it’s hard to see 2013 turning out any differently.
Early projections, notably Athlon’s, already have Alabama as the preseason No. 1 team for 2013, so four titles in five years and a BCS threepeat, anyone?
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.
Alabama’s 2013 football schedule (Home games capitalized)
- Aug. 31 — vs. Va. Tech (Atlanta)
- Sept. 14 — at Texas A&M
- Sept. 21 — COLORADO STATE
- Sept. 28 — OLE MISS
- Oct. 5 — GEORGIA STATE
- Oct. 12 — at Kentucky
- Oct. 19 — ARKANSAS
- Oct. 26 — TENNESSEE
- Nov. 9 — LSU
- Nov. 16 — at Mississippi State
- Nov. 23 — CHATTANOOGA
- Nov. 30 — at Auburn