CFB: Top 25 Countdown: No. 5 Alabama
By Randall Perry
No. 5 Alabama
Coach: Nick Saban
Record: 14-8 at Alabama, 2 years
Last season: 12-2, 8-0 Southeastern
Bowl game: Lost to Utah, 31-17, in the Sugar Bowl
Overview: In only his second season at Alabama, coach Nick Saban had the Crimson Tide undefeated in the regular season last year and was going toe-to-toe with Florida in the second half of the SEC Championship Game. But the Gators pulled away in the second half, and the Tide fell flat against Utah in the Sugar Bowl. Former Southlake Carroll, Texas, star Greg McElroy makes his debut as the starting quarterback.
Key returnees: WR Julio Jones, So.; RB Mark Ingram, So.; DT Terrence Cody, Sr.; LB Rolando McClain, Jr.; LB Dont’a Hightower, So.; CB Javier Arenas, Sr.
Why Alabama is dangerous: Alabama’s Rivals.com site did a series of articles comparing this year’s defensive starters to the 1992 unit that helped Alabama to an undefeated season and a national championship. This year’s defense will be hard-pressed to match that unit, but it could be one of the most fierce in the country. Super sophomores Julio Jones, who had 924 yards in receptions last season and running back Mark Ingram, who rushed for 720 yards, lead the offense. Cornerback Javier Arenas returned three punts for touchdowns last season and has six for his career.
Why Alabama is vulnerable: The Tide will have to replace two important offensive linemen, left tackle Andre Smith, who was a first-round draft pick and center Andre Caldwell. That could make things tough for McElroy.
Prediction: Alabama has a tough opener with Virginia Tech in Atlanta. But with running back Darren Evans out because of a knee injury, the Hokies probably won’t have enough offense to stem the Tide. With the exception of an Oct. 10 date with Mississippi, Alabama’s schedule is friendly. Home games against Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU will be interesting. Another unbeaten regular season is unlikely, but not impossible.