Alabama Crimson Tide
Final Record: 12-1, 7-1 – SEC Champions
Alabama entered 2012 as one of the favorites to win the SEC Championship, but Nick Saban having to replace six starters on defense would be tough to overcome. A 10-win season, however, seemed manageable with the schedule, but that likely wouldn’t get the Tide to Atlanta.
Fast-forward to halftime against Michigan when the score was 31-7 – we knew this team would compete for an SEC Championship and once again figure to make noise in the national picture. It was reload mode for the Tide, not rebuild. The Tide outscored their eight opponents 325 to 65. And yeah, the Tide slipped up against the likely Heisman winner and Texas A&M in Tuscaloosa the week after a miraculous win in Death Valley against LSU, but likely no team in the country would have been 2-0 after playing LSU and Texas A&M in back-to-back games. LSU played their best game of the season, and the Aggies were peaking at just the right time.
Alabama was involved in the three best games of the season against LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia. In all three, the Tide managed to lose the turnover battle -6, but they were able to overcome two of the three with a veteran quarterback, a future NFL offensive line and a physical, downhill running game.
The Eddie Lacy-TJ Yeldon combo picked up right where the Lacy-Trent Richardson combo left off. Lacy, the artist formally known as the circle button, rushed for 1,182 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Yeldon rushed for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Richardson-Lacy combo combined for 28 touchdowns in ’11.
Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart once again added to his already stellar resume as an assistant coach when, once again, the Tide finished the regular season with the top ranked defense in the country, led by linebacker CJ Mosley. Dee Milliner, Mosley and Jesse Williams all had great seasons in helping to reload the defense. Lacking a dominant pass rusher, it was a team and scheme effort that made this defense great, not star-power like the last few years.
Offensive Stud: Alabama’s offensive MVP is quarterback AJ McCarron. He didn’t have the most explosive numbers in the country, but he did finish #1 in passing efficiency, finishing ahead of UGA’s Aaron Murray. McCarron made crucial touchdown passes to TJ Yeldon against LSU and Amari Cooper against Georgia to seal both wins in the fourth quarter. He is Alabama’s field general who has been there and done that. Yes, he benefits from a strong offensive line, emerging receivers and a nasty running game, but he’s the clutch performer the team relies when push comes to shove.
Defensive Stud: Tide linebacker CJ Mosley was no doubt the leader of the defense, and he helped lead a stout front seven. Mosley finished 9th in the SEC with 99 total tackles and 4.0 sacks. Mosley isn’t Dont’a Hightower or Courtney Upshaw, but he is the Tide’s quiet leader who lets his play do the talking.
Where To Next: Fresh off an SEC Championship, #2 Alabama patiently awaits their date with #1 Notre Dame for the BCS National Championship game on January 7th. It will be a battle of power vs. power, and it is sure not to disappoint the country, as the SEC goes for its 7th national championship in a row. Similarly, Alabama will be shooting for its third national championship in the last four years. Is that a dynasty?
Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports