When a program starts expecting to win national titles, it is tough to consider any goal too lofty. Heading into the new year, this Alabama program is expecting a third straight national title whether it will admit it or not, and there are only small adjustments needed to get the program there.
The Tide have become the most elite program currently found on the college football landscape with no clear end insight. A talented quarterback returns, and a number of starters from last year’s defense will join him.
Both the offense and defense are among the nationally elite, but improvements on both sides of the ball can be made. The first change needs to come in the passing offense.
Average 255 Yards Passing a Game
Over the past few seasons, the Alabama passing offense has struggled, finishing No. 71 nationally in 2011 and No. 78 in 2012. AJ McCarron had a better season last fall, but his passing numbers were still down.
Doug Nussmeier was hired as offensive coordinator last season and with him came a more proficient passing offense. He helped McCarron become one of the most accurate passers in the country and improved the offense's touchdown-to-interception ratio.
McCarron’s quarterback rating took a substantial leap, going from 147.3 in 2011 to 175.3 in 2012. This year he needs to increase his yardage production.
The offense averaged a modest 214.46 yards through the air last fall with a limited wide receiver corps, a new offense and a rising star at quarterback.
This fall the Tide has McCarron, a senior who has been in the system for two seasons, at the controls and one of the deepest corps of wide receivers in the SEC. A goal of 255 passing yards per game is attainable for this offense.
If McCarron can hit this magic number, the Tide will repeat as national champion.
Play in Opponent's Backfield
A pass rush has been missing in the Alabama defense over the past few years.
The Tide took a huge dive in sack and tackles-for-loss numbers this past fall. In 2011, the Tide had 96 tackles for loss and 30 sacks. Last year, they had 86 and 35, respectively.
To continue its dominance over the past half-decade on defense, the Tide has to get more backfield penetration.
There is a lot of athleticism coming through the ranks for Alabama, and the expectations are high. A rejuvenated pas rush is all that is needed to make this defense better than any in memory.
The Tide have owned the competition over the past few seasons, but with an increased presence in the opposing backfield, they will dominate like in the Bear Bryant years.
Will Alabama only win 10 games next fall?
Who knows, but I can say with confidence that the Tide should win at least 10. This program is returning a number of stars on offense and defense, and if an offensive line that will include three new starters can jell, this program will be unstoppable.
Two games are circled on the calendar heading into the fall: at Texas A&M and in Tuscaloosa against LSU.
Sure, this program will think about Auburn, Virginia Tech and Arkansas, but those two games are the ones that will determine the SEC West.