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August 20, 2012
Showdown in the Bayou on Nov. 3; after that, another storied chapter in 'Bama history
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August 20, 2012

1 Alabama

Showdown in the Bayou on Nov. 3; after that, another storied chapter in 'Bama history

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Key Recruit

T.J. YELDON The freshman running back was the star of the spring game. The early enrollee gained 179 total yards while displaying breakaway speed and toughness between the tackles. The 6'2", 210-pound Yeldon will see plenty of action as Lacy's backup.

Breakout Player

KENNY BELL When the Tide wideout caught a 47-yard touchdown pass from McCarron in the spring game, it was a preview of things to come. The 6'1", 175-pound Bell, who caught 17 passes for 255 yards and two TDs as a sophomore, is the Tide's most explosive deep threat.

The Skinny

AFTER HAVING three defensive starters from the national championship team selected in the first round of April's NFL draft, the Tide's biggest strength is now its offensive line. Led by reigning Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones (who is moving from left tackle to center), tackle D.J. Fluker and guard Chance Warmack, 'Bama's Big Uglies have the potential to be the nation's most dominating front wall. The staple of the offense remains the power running game and tailback Eddie Lacy, but new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier plans to call more mid- and long-range passes for quarterback AJ McCarron, who showed improved arm strength in the spring after off-season surgery on his right shoulder to repair a torn labrum.

Final Analysis

THOUGH POPULATED with former four- and five-star recruits, the young 'Bama D could struggle early while learning Nick Saban's complex scheme. That's crucial because the Tide has two early tests: Michigan in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 1 and a trip to Arkansas on Sept. 15. Fortunately McCarron usually performs at his best when it matters most (see last year's BCS title game). Expect more of the same, perhaps even a little bit better, when Alabama visits LSU on Nov. 3. Expect, too, 'Bama to become the first team since Nebraska, in 1997, to win three national titles in a four-year span.