Monday, October 29, 2012

Can Anyone Stop Alabama?

By Jean Neuberger

This year's entire 2012 season comes down to one simple question.

Can anyone, anyone at all, stop Nick Saban and Alabama from winning yet another national title?

Right now, the answer seems to be no.

What Saban is building in Tuscaloosa is bigger than what Pete Carroll had going at USC. It resembles the Miami days of the 1980s, except cleaner. It is a well-oiled, clean, efficient offense coupled with a brutal, vicious uncompromising defense. And this year, it is been on complete cruise control going through the most celebrated conference in football.

This weekend, College GameDay is heading to Baton Rouge to see if LSU can end the 'Bama reign of terror in the SEC. Without question, this is the Tide's biggest test. LSU is big, athletic, and carries a massive chip on their shoulders following their dismal performance in last January's BCS title game. And yet, in the eyes of most, Alabama should win this game. While both defenses are tough, 'Bama's offense, despite losing Trent Richardson, is significantly better than what the Tigers bring to the table.

Quick, how many interceptions has 'Bama QB A.J. McCarron thrown this year? None. Not one.

You'd think losing a back the caliber of Richardson would slow the 'Bama offense this year. It hasn't. You'd think losing guys like Mark Barron and Courtney Upshaw would make the 'Bama defense more vulnerable this year. It's not.

The fact is, Nick Saban is the Coach K of college football. He doesn't rebuild, he reloads. This is far more impressive, considering that Saban's reloading comes at a much larger scale.

So we come to the debate of comparing the best of the BCS against Alabama. Which, if any, pose a serious threat?

Kansas State? Nope. Give Saban one month to watch video of Collen Klein and it would be quick and painful. If Arkansas could shut Klein down last year, what would Alabama do them with a month of defensive planning under Saban?

Oregon? Not likely. While the Ducks have an offense that is incredibly fun and loaded with speed, one wonders if their players could keep up with four quarters of 'Bama bruising. It would be a decent game, but remember, Oregon consistently is among the worst in the nation in time of possession. Give 'Bama that much clock and it might be near impossible for the Ducks to stop.

LSU? No, see above.

Georgia/Florida? Both are possibilities in the SEC title game. While Georgia has a good defense, it's not nearly as good as Alabama's. And, while UGA has a good QB in Aaron Murray, the Bulldogs struggled mightily against a South Carolina team who could create pressure on the quarterback with just their defensive line. I could see a repeat here. As for Florida, same story on defense with an offense that's becoming more anemic. Big edge to the Tide.

Notre Dame? By far, the best chance.

The Irish have a great defense. Te'o is an absolute beast and is deserving of true Heisman consideration. If you don't agree, go back to the Oklahoma game and watch that fourth quarter interception. They have a great quarterback system and veteran leadership that keeps them grounded and focused. When Oklahoma tied the game midway through the fourth quarter, the Irish dominated the game when it mattered.

The knock on Notre Dame is that they've escaped one too many times. The goal line drama against Stanford, the clinging at the end against BYU. The last second victory over a mediocre Purdue squad. This is a team that appears to play to the level of their opponent. Playing against Alabama would require them to step it up a few notches. And, while the edge would still favor the Crimson Tide, the Fighting Irish might be the one team that could pull off the upset.

Even then, the Irish would have to leapfrog Kansas State somehow.

Regardless, it doesn't look like the crystal football is leaving the Alabama state line anytime soon.

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