Ball has bounced Tide's way in historic run

Already, the question of a three-peat is making the rounds in Alabama.

It’s a valid one. The Crimson Tide will likely start the 2013 season ranked No. 1 in the polls.

Their schedule again has a national championship flavor to it. They avoid Florida, Georgia and South Carolina in the East and instead get Kentucky and Tennessee, who between them won one SEC game this season (the Vols beat the Wildcats).

Their “tough” nonconference game is against Virginia Tech to open the season in Atlanta, and the Hokies are being picked in the middle of the pack next season in the ACC.

Granted, the Tide will need to be on top of their game the second week of the season when they travel to College Station to take on Texas A&M, but six of their next seven games after that are in Tuscaloosa. The only road game during that stretch is at Kentucky.

So there’s a lot to like about Alabama’s schedule in 2013.

There’s even more to like about what the Crimson Tide are bringing back next season, not to mention the fact that they’re coached by Nick Saban, whose penchant for recruiting and developing great players is matched only by his ability to get his teams to play their best football on the biggest stages.

If you were making a list right now of the top 20 returning players in the SEC next season, there would be five locks on that list from Alabama -- receiver Amari Cooper, offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, quarterback AJ McCarron, linebacker C.J. Mosley and running back T.J. Yeldon. That’s not even counting a few others who may play their way onto that list by the middle of the season.

The pieces are in place to do what no college football team has done in the Associated Press poll era (dating back to 1936), and that’s win three straight national championships.

But a word of warning to anybody who might already be clearing out space next year for another crystal football at the Mal M. Moore Athletic Facility: Even for a program that has it rolling the way Alabama does right now, it takes a lot of good fortune just to get to the BCS National Championship Game.

Obviously, the landscape changes in two years when the four-team playoff goes into effect, but a lot of things fell just right -- even a tipped pass -- just for the Crimson Tide to reach the national title game each of the past two seasons.

We’re talking about a handful of plays and/or games. That’s how fine the line is between playing for a national championship and playing in the Capital One Bowl.

It was a tipped pass in the SEC championship game this season.

Mosley made a great play getting a piece of Aaron Murray's pass, and the ball just happened to flutter into the hands of Georgia receiver Chris Conley, who slipped to the turf as time expired. Had the tipped pass fallen incomplete, Georgia would have had time to run another play.

Several weeks earlier, Alabama was on the outside looking in at the whole national championship equation having lost at home to Texas A&M.

But in a span of about 30 minutes on the next-to-last weekend of the regular season, Kansas State was blown out by Baylor, and Oregon lost at home in overtime to Stanford, which allowed Alabama to move back up in the BCS standings.

And in 2011, let’s not forget that Alabama lost at home to LSU on the first weekend of November, but got a second shot at LSU in the BCS National Championship Game thanks to Oklahoma State’s upset loss to Iowa State a few weeks later. The Crimson Tide didn’t even play in the SEC championship game that season.

It’s a fact that great teams create their own luck.

It’s also a fact that the ball has bounced Alabama’s way each of the past two seasons after home losses in November, clearing just enough of a path to college football’s money game.

And once there, the Crimson Tide have cashed in like the champions that they are.

Something says their pursuit of a third straight title won’t be any less compelling and that they might need another fortuitous bounce or two along the way.