Alabama a year away?

Earlier this week, ESPN's Travis Haney listed the college football teams that he deems to be a year away from a run at a national championship, and Ohio State topped his list.

But guess who else made that list?


Yep, the same Alabama team that has won two of the last three BCS national championships.

Haney makes it clear in his piece that he thinks the Crimson Tide are a legitimate contender in 2012 even with all of their personnel losses from a year ago. He just thinks they will be in better shape in 2013 to make a serious run.

It's hard to argue that logic, but it's also hard to envision a scenario where Alabama isn't in the national championship race next season heading into November. Even if it loses early (possibly to Arkansas), Alabama could get right back into the mix by beating LSU at home that first weekend in November.

There's no question that Alabama will have to retool its defense. But when's the last time the Crimson Tide haven't been outstanding on defense since Nick Saban arrived? Names like Mosley, Milliner, Williams and Hubbard will become household names in the SEC next season.

And on offense, I think this potentially could be a better unit than what Alabama puts on the field in 2013. The offensive line should be exceptional. Seniors Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack are both guys likely to go in the top two rounds of the draft, and junior D.J. Fluker could be a first-rounder. Down the road, sophomore tackle Cyrus Kouandjio may be better than all of them. It's also not out of the realm of possibility that junior quarterback AJ McCarron would look at the possibility of turning pro if he has a big season.

Given what we saw out of freshman T.J. Yeldon this spring and knowing what else the Tide have in their running back stable (Eddie Lacy, Dee Hart and Jalston Fowler), this is a team that will run it as well as it ever has next season. We'll have to wait and see how the receivers develop.

Here's the other thing: Saban saw what happened after the 2009 national championship season. You can bet he will keep his foot to this team's throat, and he already has.

So, yeah, I agree with Haney. Alabama has a ton of good, young talent that will be even more experienced two years from now. I like their chances in 2013.

But I also like their chances in 2012.

Come to think of it, as long as Saban's around and the Tide are recruiting and developing players the way they have the past few years, it's hard to see a year when I don't like Alabama's chances.