A dismantling…a mauling…call it whatever you want to call it, and it’s already been said ad nausea, last night’s Beatdown by the Beach is yet another reason to put your full faith and trust in the SEC, and specially Nick Saban and the University of Alabama. The championship rings haven’t even been sized yet and many are predicting that 2013 could be a year where Alabama could do an unprecedented BCS ‘Three-peat’.
As good as Alabama looked against Notre Dame, expect the 2013 version of Alabama’s team to be even better. On offense, Alabama loses two (maybe three) off the offensive line (Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones are both seniors and D.J. Fluker is thinking about foregoing his senior year for the NFL). Losing all three guys would be a blow that would hurt a bit, make no mistake. Not a lot of teams can replace 3 starters on the offensive line and not see a dip in some area of the offense. One of the tight ends, Michael Williams departs, and there are reports that Eddie Lacy is considering leaving early. But outside of those guys, everybody else is back, including those who are coming back from injury (Dee Hart, J. Fowler, D. White, Kenny Bell).
Clearly the most important part of the offensive group returning is QB AJ McCarron. McCarron has played masterfully in his biggest games, and looks to enter his senior season a legit Heisman Trophy candidate. And when you add to all of that a stable of highly ranked players from high school (RBs Altee Tenpenny, Tyren Jones and Derrick Henry, and TE O.J. Howard) and offensively Alabama could be scary good next year.
On defense, the losses include three defensive linemen (Quinton Dial, Damion Square, and Jesse Williams), one linebacker in Nico Johnson, and starting safety Robert Lester. Everybody else is back, and you add to that guys coming in that could make an impact like Jonathan Allen (#1 ranked high school OLB in the country), and guys that played a lot this year that are coming back like Landon Collins, Nick Perry, Geno Smith, and Denzel Devall, and you’ve got a defense that should be better, especially within the secondary, which by all accounts was the weakest part of a very good Alabama defense in 2012.
Schedule-wise, Alabama gets LSU, Arkansas, and Tennessee at home, and they start off with a rebuilding Virginia Tech team in Atlanta. They do go to College Station to play Johnny Heisman and his Texas A&M bunch but that’s early in the year (9/14/13) and you can bet that Saban is probably already getting tape together on that team this week to start preparations. They end the year (as always) with Auburn, on the Plains in 2013.
The rest of the SEC West should come down to LSU and Texas A&M. Ole Miss is surging but are still a year or two away from competing with the top three teams in the West, and Mississippi State can’t seem to stay consistent. Arkansas will have a new coach and system, so expect some growing pains there, and the same holds true for Auburn.
Over in the SEC East, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina remain the teams to beat, but don’t sleep on Vanderbilt. I expect Georgia to have a big year, however they start off with a brutal first two games, going to Clemson and then playing South Carolina at home. We’ll know really quickly if Georgia is going to contend again in 2013.