When the Alabama Crimson Tide steamrolled past Notre Dame to claim the 2012 BCS national championship, they did more than win Nick Saban his fourth national title; they also announced to the college football world that, yes, we are witnessing one of the greatest dynasties in recent college football history.
Alabama has now won three of the past four national titles, and with a host of talented players back in 2013, they will certainly be considered a top contender to win another title in the season to come. They are a machine, after all--a machine powered not only by some of the best talent in the nation, but also the unyielding force that is Saban, who now must be considered one of the greatest coaches in the history of the sport.
As we head into the 2013 season, then, one of the most obvious questions to ask is: Can 'Bama win it all again? And if not, who will knock them from their perch.
We'll attempt to answer the latter right here, in Part II of our special 2013 season preview edition of College Football Questions & Answers.
Can anyone from the SEC overtake 'Bama and retake the South?
Yes. But that's only because the SEC was smart enough (or perhaps lucky enough) to bring in the Texas A&M Aggies just as that long-mediocre-to-good program was about to break through to near-greatness. The Aggies were unquestionably one of the great success stories of the 2012 season, overcoming their many Southern doubters by putting together a much more than simply respectable first season in the ever-brutal SEC. Behind the leadership and general spectacularness of Johnny Manziel, the Aggies roared to an 11-2 season, and all indications are that Kevin Sumlin has what it takes to finally build a consistent winner in College Station. The Aggies certainly return a ton of talent and certainly should be more than capable of making a run at the SEC crown; about the only questions you might have to ask at this point is whether Manziel will be able to handle his newfound Heisman fame, and whether Sumlin will be able to keep this team focused after such a resounding success in 2012.
And if 'Bama wins the SEC once again? What then?
Well, then we turn our gaze northward, to the much-maligned Big Ten, where Urban Meyer is going about the work of bringing SEC-level football to the most SEC-like program in the North (yes, that's a compliment, Buckeye fans, I assure you). It always amazes when I look at what happened at Ohio State in the wake of the Jim Tressel scandal; just when you thought that Ohio State would suffer the long-term consequences of losing perhaps the best coach they ever had, they went out and replaced that guy with ... just about the only guy, outside of Nick Saban, who could be said to be even better. Meyer's record speaks for itself. He won at Bowling Green. He won at Utah. He won huge at Florida, and though burnout forced him to leave Gainesville behind, his coaching chops remain. This guy is a master motivator, a relentless recruiter, and an obsessive competitor. Don't think for a moment that he doesn’t want to knock off Saban. And don't think for a moment that he doesn’t have a team to do it. With Braxton Miller running the show and a typically talented defense returning in 2013, the Buckeyes are the clear favorite to win the Big Ten. Whether or not they could take down 'Bama on the biggest stage remains to be seen, and their historic record against the SEC is, in a word, pitiful. But then again, they never had Meyer running the show before.
Who else has a chance?
Well, I’d say Oregon, but I’ve seen them fail on the biggest stage enough at this point. And then there’s the little issue of Chip Kelly no longer being there. Which could hurt a little bit. Other teams to watch include LSU (as always), Georgia, Michigan (yep, I’m serious) and Stanford.