Alabama Still the Team to Beat in 2012

Dee Milliner, who was named Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week for his play against Michigan, returns an interception that set up an Alabama score. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

It was business as usual for Nick Saban and his army last night in Arlington.

Saban and his Crimson Tide marched into Arlington and essentially ended the battle in the first 15 minutes. It was a swift, unrelenting blitzkrieg-style assault from the Crimson Tide — one of elite discipline and master planning.

Michigan, reeling from the voracity of Alabama’s assault, would not find its footing until just under 3 minutes left in the 2nd quarter. It didn’t matter. Alabama had already broken the will of a once eager Michigan squad.

We can gather two things from last night’s game: Alabama is very capable of defending its national crown and Michigan has a lot of work to do.

When I say Michigan has a lot of work to do — I mean that in the sense of building their program to where they want it to be. It’s probably unfair to say that Michigan has no shot at the Big Ten title or that they aren’t a top ten team after last night’s debacle. These are still attainable goals. They simply ran into a better prepared and better equipped squad. Alabama, in its simplest form, is on another level when compared to Michigan.

The question for Michigan going forward: Will they respond positively or negatively to this game? They will need to regroup quickly.

Alabama is clearly one of the top teams in the country — in the same boat with the likes of Oregon, USC, and LSU. Their ability to replace old parts with fresh new parts from year to year that are just as good, if not better, is astonishing. The amount of planning and recruiting it takes to do such a thing is, and let’s not forget, very unique. No one needs to toot Saban’s horn for him — he does that with his own results — but it really is mind-boggling.

The question(s) for Alabama moving forward: can they carry that momentum from week to week and can they avoid giving up big plays that plagued their defense in 2010?

Alabama didn’t particularly generate an overwhelming pass rush against Michigan, but I noticed they really didn’t come after Denardvery much. It was more of a design to contain Robinson and force him to make the throws — which he could not do. The amount of discipline on display last night was incredible to watch, even if you’re not a fan of either team. Robinson did have some opportunities in the passing game, but he couldn’t make the throws. A better quarterback can move the ball in the air against the Alabama secondary — maybe not consistently, but enough to cause problems.

Alabama’s physicality was on full display against Michigan Saturday night. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

The 2010 version of Alabama’s campaign for a title defense was a bit of a let down for their fans. Many felt that the 2010 team was better than its National Champion predecessor, but it was clear they lacked that drive. As we all know, they succumbed to defeat on three occasions that year — with two of them being tough road games at South Carolina and LSU.

The Crimson Tide of 2012 will face a similar path, traveling on the road to Fayetteville, Baton Rouge, Columbia (MO), and Knoxville. LSU and Arkansas are obviously the two road games that jump out at you, but for a defense that has a secondary that is still somewhat in question (and the weakest link), those other two road games will be solid tests as well.

Another factor that you must consider is the reduced prep time from a staggering eight months to one week. There is no question that Nick Saban is a master game planner, but the inexperience on defense is bound to show at some point. When it does, we will truly see what kind of character this unit has.

If you’re going to compare this squad to the 2010 squad that failed to defend their national title, I don’t think it’s even close. The 2012 Crimson Tide has that competitive edge and energy that the 2010 team seemed to lack. As Barrett Jones said, this team is hungry.

Les Miles and his rapscallion band of Bengal Tigers loom large on November 3rd and he’ll have an extra week to prepare — just like 2010. Alabama has room for improvement if you can believe that (trust that Saban does believe that) and a lot to accomplish before then, but after the first weekend of college football in 2012, it seems that not much has changed at the top of the spectrum.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment box below. You can e-mail me suggestions or questions at jtmcadams@aol.com. Follow me on Twitter @JoeSportswriter.

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