The NCAA college football season starts on Thursday with a game between North Carolina and South Carolina, but the biggest story of the year still remains the same and its whether the Alabama Crimson Tide and head coach Nick Saban can win their third national championship in a row in 2013.
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Last season Saban led his Alabama team to a dominant victory over Notre Dame in the BCS Championship game with a 42-14 win that was never close and by the end of things it looked like the Fighting Irish were a high school team. Saban brings back quarterback AJ McCarron after another very solid season and despite losing title game MVP Eddie Lacy to the NFL, the team is still fully stocked in the backfield with starter TJ Yeldon as well as Jalston Fowler and Derrick Henry.
Lacy won MVP after rushing for 140 yards on 20 carries with one rushing touchdown and one through the air and Yeldon showed that he would be a worthy successor, as he rushed for 108 yards and one touchdown against Notre Dame. Last season Yeldon rushed for over 1,000 yards with 12 touchdowns and the Crimson Tide should have no problem ranking at least 17th in rushing yards per game again after doing it last season with over 200 yards per game. The defense was ranked first in points against last season with just over 10 per game and Saban is expecting a similar performance in 2014.
Most ESPN analysts agree that Alabama is going to win their third straight title, as just two of the network's main college football analysts did not pick the Crimson Tide to get to the title game. Desmond Howard picked LSU to win the SEC and the national title over Stanford, while Danny Kanell selected Oregon and Clemson in the championship game with Georgia winning the SEC. Everyone else selected Alabama to at least made the championship game, while the only two to not select them as winners were Kannel and Joey Galloway, who said that Oregon would defeat Alabama.
McCarron comes back after throwing for 2,933 yards and 30 touchdowns with just three interceptions all season with over 300 attempts and he will have his favorite target back as well with Amari Cooper. Last season Cooper showed that he could make the big plays and the clutch catches and he finished with 59 catches for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns and McCarron will be counting on him again this year.
The schedule is always tough because the SEC is always tough, but after starting with Virginia Tech and Texas A&M, things let up for a bit. The biggest game of the year could be that third week matchup against the Aggies, as they were the team to beat Alabama last year and with the Johnny Manziel controversy going on, everyone will be wondering if he will play in that game. After Colorado State, Ole Miss, Georgia State and Kentucky, things pick up with Arkansas and doesn't really stop. Tennessee, LSU and Mississippi State are next on the schedule before an easy game against Chattanooga before the rivalry game against Oregon.
Probably shouldn't bet against Nick Saban again.