The case for
The subject was history, and the speaker was AJ McCarron. As the Crimson Tide's senior quarterback sat in the Alabama football offices one afternoon in June, he articulated what it will take for the Tide to repeat as national champs. "I was here in 2010 when we lost three games after winning the national title," said McCarron. "We didn't have the right chemistry then, but things are different here now. We have leadership, and we have a ton of talent. We're going to be ready for anything."
Last season the 6'4", 214-pound McCarron drew raves from coach Nick Saban for his heady, risk-averse play. McCarron led the nation in passing efficiency (175.3) and threw a school-record 30 touchdown passes. This fall he should put up even more impressive numbers, because in Saban's seven years in Tuscaloosa he has never had more gifted skill-position players.
There's running back T.J. Yeldon, who rushed for an Alabama freshman-record 1,108 yards. There's sophomore wideout Amari Cooper, who caught a school-record 11 touchdown passes And there's 6'6", 237-pound freshman O.J. Howard, who was ranked by Rivals.com as the nation's No. 1 tight end and may end up as the gem of the Crimson Tide's 2013 recruiting class.
"Our offense didn't miss a beat this spring and looked as dominating as it did against Notre Dame," says junior safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, referring to Alabama's 42--14 win over the Fighting Irish in last January's BCS title game.
In 2012 the Tide led the FBS in scoring defense (10.9 points per game). Eight starters return from that unit, including senior weakside linebacker C.J. Mosley, who topped the team with 107 tackles. The 6'2", 232-pound All-America will make all the calls in the huddle this fall.
You won't hear anyone in the football offices say it, but this Alabama team has a chance to achieve something that has never been accomplished since the AP poll began in 1936: win four national titles in five seasons.
The case against
The two areas of concern are on the offensive line and in the defensive backfield. The line must replace three players, including center Barrett Jones, the 2012 Rimington Trophy winner. In the secondary three of Saban's top four cornerbacks this fall have never been full-time starters.