Shane: Tide’s outlook for 2009

Crimson Tide will win it all in 2009
By Shane from Centerpoint

I’ve been hearing the talk since the moment Nick Saban’s feet hit the ground in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The issue is not if but when Saban will lead Alabama to its thirteenth national championship. Most of the national pundits are in agreement that the Crimson Tide will probably accomplish the task by Saban’s fourth or fifth year. The experts may be right, but I believe Alabama is currently so talented and deep that it will win college football’s biggest prize at the end of this next season. Yes, that’s right! Bama will win the national championship in 2009.

Listen, I wouldn’t make statements like those above without stating specific reasons to back my opinion. Here are several:

First, and foremost, I know that Tide head coach Nick Saban is simply one of the best football coaches to walk the sidelines in the modern era. I’ve personally watched him guide two programs (Alabama and LSU) that compete in the toughest conference in the nation to elite national status very quickly. His record speaks for itself. In my opinion, with Saban at the helm, Alabama’s chances to win the national crown are doubled.

Secondly, I think that the quarterback position will be much improved with probable starter Greg McElroy behind center. He is a better athlete than former starter John P. Wilson, and there is no comparing the two in passing ability. Greg is a better player. He has excellent footwork, can read the entire field while going through his progressions, and has surprising accuracy with his delivery. I believe he will reach the three thousand yard mark and throw at least twenty-five touchdowns, with fewer than five interceptions in 2009.

Another potential weapon at the quarterback position will be a young talented athlete from the state of Florida, Star Jackson. Jackson has a rifle arm and tailback speed to match. He could push for playing time.

Admittedly, Alabama did lose some great players to the NFL along the line of scrimmage, but big linemen have become the Tide’s best asset. This team is loaded with great talent on both sides of the ball, with two-deep depth at every position – three-deep in some areas. A top-ten recruiting class followed by back-to-back “number 1’s” has Alabama ready to dominate in the trenches.

Everybody that studies the game closely knows that defense truly wins championships. Saban, like Southern Cal’s Pete Carroll, signs the best defensive players in the country year in and year out. Combined with his knowledge of defense and ability to coach it, Alabama will have successful results consistently on that side of the ball.

One huge factor that weighs heavily in my decision to go ahead and predict the Crimson Tide’s “run to number one” is their relatively easy schedule. When I take into account that Bama ripped off an undefeated (12-0) regular season last year with most of the difficult games on the road, I think it’s reasonable to assume that this year will be much easier from a schedule standpoint.

LSU, Tennessee, Arkansas, and South Carolina all come to Bryant-Denny in 2009. The season opener against Virginia Tech will take place in Alabama’s home away from home, the Georgia Dome. However, the road schedule does provide one “trap” game when the Tide travels to Oxford, Mississippi to take on the Ole Miss Rebels. The rest of the road slate looks favorable, with only two more western division road games against lower-tier opponents.

I cannot overlook one other key component of Nick Saban’s 2009 team. He has quietly assembled one of the finest groups of offensive skill players to ever wear the crimson jersey. The running game, featuring Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, will be lethal. Lead by Julio Jones, the speed and talent of the wide-outs is comparable to the very best college football has to offer.

I’ll finish by saying — before anybody out there throws the first stone — remember the pundits have called for the exact same thing I’m predicting (Alabama’s National Championship in 2009) to happen by 2010 or 2011. I just happen to believe that Nick Saban is way ahead of schedule in “the process”. Time will tell.
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