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Why 2013 is Alabama’s “Perfect Storm”


Just as in the movie made famous by George Clooney, this Tide will vanquish all who stand before it.

Why 2013 is Alabama’s “Perfect Storm”

By: Larry Burton

Just as in the 2000 Warner Bros. disaster film made famous by George Clooney, this year’s Crimson Tide has all the ingredients to form the “Perfect Storm” also and just as that storm vanquished all who stood in its path, so may this year’s edition of the Crimson Tide.

Achieving that perfect movie storm involved the timing of the right tides, with three different storms that converged on one point to create a force that nothing could withstand.

The same things are forming in Tuscaloosa right now. Many different elements are coming together at the right time in the right place and the force that is about to be unleashed will leave no one standing in its wake.

First of all, the Crimson Tide has the right schedule against the right teams at the right time in their history.

While there is no easy schedule in the SEC, some are easier ones than others and this year, Alabama drew the long straw. Their season opening game, usually a contest of powerhouses, is against a Va. Tech team which is in serious disarray and a defense that would have trouble stopping a good high school team.

Alabama doesn’t play the powerhouses in the SEC East this year and overall, the competition in the West, their home division, could be the softest in many years. LSU will be trying to replace most of their defense and they have an offense trying to find an identity. Ole Miss is a comer, but won’t be in Alabama’s league for years if at all. Colorado State, Georgia State, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Chattanooga and Auburn will be laughers leaving only Texas A&M with a piecemeal defense to stop an Alabama offense that is better than last years. “Johnny Football” can have the day of his life and still lose this game by double digits.

That only leaves the SEC Championship Game to worry about because year in and year out, that game is far tougher than the national championship game where the Tide swamps yet another out of conference foe. As narcissistic as it sounds, it’s a two to three game season at best and this is a team that can handle this.

Secondly, this is team with the right people in the right places peaking at all the same time.

Sr. Quarterback? Check. Throw in the fact that he’s a two time national championship winner too and it’s an off the chart big check mark.

Quality receivers for him to throw to? Check. Throw in the fact that this is the best receiving corps in the country and that too is an off the chart big check mark.

Good running back? Check. Well, make that four great running backs. With a stable this deep, this too is an awful huge check mark.

Imposing offensive line? Check. What some saw early as a weak spot may turn out to be a group that rivals last year’s “best line ever” group. Most if not all on this line will play on Sunday after leaving the university. Does that tell you what kind of group this is?

Defensive Leadership? Check and check. The defense is ripe with leaders like CJ Mosley and Vinnie Sunseri, both of which are not just imposing players, but coaches, cheerleaders and mentors on the field.

Returning starters on defense? Check, no make that eight check marks out of eleven and the three replacements have all seen game time and are good to go. Overall, this is going to be another stingy, gritty, in your face and make you quit defense that you’ve come to expect from the team of Nick Saban and Kirby Smart.

Special team players that are truly special? Check, check, check, check and check. Alabama has a duo of competent field goal kickers and Cody Mandell, the punter may be one of the SEC’s best this year. What’s more Alabama has it’s deepest pool of return men ever, each with the ability to take a kick back to the house with just a missed tackle or through raw speed and shifty moves.

Thanks to five years of solid top rated recruiting classes, there has never been a time in Tuscaloosa where every position is filled by a top rated man and backed with men who might start on any other team.

While Alabama fans may feel uncomfortable with this statement, they backed into the the last two championship games. While they may have proven themselves to indeed be the best overall team for both of those years, they needed help to get to that point. This year they won’t. This is the best, the most complete team Alabama has fielded in many, many years.

The last ingredient in this perfect storm is confidence, not cockiness.

Winning isn’t easy, but growing used to it is. Winning builds both confidence and cockiness and while both can have positive attributes, cockiness can get a team into trouble.

Nick Saban recently told a group of Alabama supporters, “Sometimes winning is easier than the process it takes to win.” What he meant by that is a team may win sometimes, but having a team committed to doing the hard work it takes to become a winner is harder to achieve.

Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and Nick Saban both agree that winning the first championship is hard and the next one even harder. And it’s not necessarily because teams get fat and lazy sitting on their accomplishments, but that winning and winning often puts a very large target on their back. Saban recently acknowledged that beating Alabama makes a team’s whole season one of note.  A great example was Texas A&M last season. There were a lot of 11 win teams over the last few seasons, but by beating Alabama, the Aggies gained a notoriety that no other 11 win team got and may have won Johnny Manziel the Heisman Trophy.

These players seem to understand, appreciate and accept that.

As soon as the final whistle blew at the Capitol One Bowl Game, AJ McCarron knew that Greg McElroy, his good friend, had played his last snap in a crimson uniform and that this team was now going to be his. I had the first interview he gave as “THE” man to guide the guide the Tide’s offense for the next three years right on the field after that game. He told me that, ”    “. That told me that he was not happy with what he had seen that season, that a team that should have repeated with a wealth of talent, squandered their chances and lost three games they shouldn’t have.

He said in so many words that wouldn’t happen again on his watch and so far it hasn’t, although Alabama needed help to get to the championship game the last two seasons. This team is focused, they are working like a team that has everything to prove and nothing to fall back on. There a lot of men on this team with two or three rings, but they weren’t the ones who were starters on that 2009 undefeated, untied team. It bothers them greatly that they haven’t matched that feat and they want it, badly want it in fact.

So as hard as it is to believe, this is a team of champions that is still hungry, still clawing and scratching for every foot of grass they can earn on a football field. This is a group of back to back champions that aren’t satisfied with their legacy yet. They want more, they want that undefeated, untied, no help needed, wire to wire championship.

After this group of Crimson Tiders achieve that,  teams may worry less than they will this year, because this year is the year of the perfect storm. This is the year the Tide rises so high that no one dare stand in front on it and hope to leave without misery. This is the year that every piece of the puzzle falls perfectly into place. All the other teams can hope for is calm after the storm.

Larry is an award winning writer whose work has appeared in almost every college football venue. Now he primarily writes for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow Larry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter

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