Back 4 x 4 Preview: Alabama

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4 x 4 Preview: Alabama

By Matt Smith
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Alabama is hoping to become the first team in college football history to win four national championships in five seasons.

4 Household Names

1. QB AJ McCarron (Sr.) – Almost every school passing record should belong to McCarron following this season. The self-proclaimed perfectionist has the most talent any Nick Saban quarterback has had around him. Expect the phrase “best college quarterback” ever to be mentioned if he can bring home a third straight national championship.

2. WR Amari Cooper (So.) – The sophomore could break the school’s career receiving touchdowns record by mid-season, a remarkable accomplishment given the history of Alabama football. What’s even scarier is he won’t be NFL Draft-eligible until after the 2014 season.

3. OT Cyrus Kouandijo (Jr.) – The next great Alabama offensive lineman is Kouandijo, who assumed the left tackle role last fall after having a reserve role in 2011. He’ll again protect McCarron’s blindside this fall before likely being a top-15 NFL Draft pick next spring.

4. LB C.J. Mosley (Sr.) – McCarron’s return to Tuscaloosa was not a shock, but most were surprised to see Mosley delay his NFL future for a chance at another national title. He’s not an elite pass rusher, but has consistently made big plays going as far back as a pick-six against Florida as a freshman to the deflection that ended last year’s SEC Championship Game. He’s what Manti Te’o was to Notre Dame last season – only more physically gifted.

4 Relative Unknowns Who Will Become Household Names

1. RB Kenyan Drake (So.) – Despite spending some time in the doghouse last season, Drake still managed 42 carries and five touchdowns. With Jalston Fowler and Dee Hart coming off of injuries and Derrick Henry just a freshman, Drake should at least double his carries this season. He provides a nice blend of speed and power at 6’1” and 200 pounds.

2. WR DeAndrew White (Jr.) – White was on this list last year before an injury cost him all but five games. The junior has had a knack for making big plays in limited action during his first two seasons. There are plenty of options for McCarron to throw to, but don’t be surprised if White ends up trailing only Cooper in most statistical categories.

3. DE Jeoffrey Pagan (Jr.) – Defensive line may be the biggest concern for the 2013 Tide. Gone are Quinton Dial, Damion Square and Jesse Williams. Pagan, one of the team’s top signees in the 2011 class, now must live up to the hype with which he arrived. Although he’s made just 27 tackles in two seasons, the physical tools are there for Pagan to match or exceed the production of Square and Dial at end a year ago.

4. LB Trey DePriest (Jr.) – Despite starting all but one game last season, DePriest is a relative unknown when compared to the rest of the Tide. He had the unenviable task of replacing Donta Hightower last season but has now established his own identity as a run-stuffer on the inside. He’s not the playmaker that Mosley is, but he’ll be just as critical to the success of the defense.

4 Must-See Games

1. Aug. 31 vs. Virginia Tech (Atlanta) – The Tide begin the season at a neutral site for the fourth time in six years. They have won the three previous games by an average of three touchdowns, including a 34-24 win over the Hokes in 2009, also in Atlanta. Virginia Tech will have another stout defense, but questions abound offensively.

2. Sept. 14 at Texas A&M – It’s the game of the year - so big that one of my good friends scheduled his wedding for 30 minutes after kickoff. But y’all don’t care about that. After last Nov. 10, Alabama’s climb back to No. 1 and Johnny Manziel’s offseason, this game may have more buzz than any regular season since No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Notre Dame squared off in 1993.

3. Nov. 9 vs. LSU – The road team has been surprisingly successful in this series, winning four of the past six, in addition to Alabama’s BCS Championship Game win in New Orleans in January 2012. This won’t get the hype of the A&M game, but it could be the most likely landmine for the Tide. All six regular season meetings in the Nick Saban-Les Miles era have been decided by nine points or less.

4. Nov. 30 at Auburn – Yes, Alabama has won the last two meetings by a combined 77 points, but it’s still the Iron Bowl. There’s still some talent on the Plains, and with Gus Malzahn back in charge of the offense and a week off to prepare, don’t be surprised if this more resembles Alabama’s 26-21 come-from-behind win in 2009 than the whippings of the past two seasons.

4 Bold Predictions

1. Alabama will defeat Texas A&M by two touchdowns. Not because Johnny Manziel is shut down, but because McCarron will pick apart a young Aggies defense that won’t force three turnovers as it did last season in Tuscaloosa. Texas A&M will churn out more yards than any Tide opponent, but the turnover edge will flip back to Alabama, which was -3 in last November’s loss.

2. No running back will top 200 caries. After Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy both went over 200 totes in 2011 and 2012 respectively, the Tide will limit  sophomore starter T.J. Yeldon to just 170 this season. Drake, Henry and Fowler help make this the deepest backfield under Saban.

3. McCarron will become Alabama’s second Heisman Trophy winner. Repeating last year’s three-interception season won’t happen, but a 33-touchdown, six-interception campaign, to go along with 13 wins, will be enough for the fifth-year senior to bring home sports’ most prestigious individual trophy.

4. Alabama will play Stanford in the BCS Championship Game. After a perfect regular season, the Tide will grind out a second straight SEC Championship Game victory over Florida, who wins a three-way tie atop the SEC East. They’ll meet the Cardinal in Pasadena, just as they did 79 years ago in the Rose Bowl.

Matt Smith - Matt is a 2007 graduate of Notre Dame and has spent most of his life pondering why most people in the Mid-Atlantic actually think there are more important things than college football. He has blogged for College Football News, covering both national news as well as Notre Dame and the service academies. He credits Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel for his love of college football and tailgating at Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn for his love of sundresses. Matt covers the ACC as well as the national scene.