Mark Blaudschun

Picking the Tide is too easy. Forget the number of starters returning. Forget whether they have an established starting QB. Forget whether there is a major challenge in the first game of the season and the final regular season game is always against Auburn.

The Tide will be a Pre-season Top 10, Top 5 and even No.1 choice for one reason. Nick Saban is coaching. [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

There was an instant a couple of years ago when Ohio State's Urban Meyer sat on the throne.

But that didn't last all that long. Saban won another national championship last season (Number 5)--three in the last 5 seasons.

He lost his defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to Georgia, which sets up the potential of an SEC championship game in Atlanta between pupil-and mentor. But that's another story.

Alabama has only 11 starters returning. It needs another first year starter QB to do something. It needs to replace a Heisman winning running back (Derrick Henry).

And more important, it has Saban back for his 10th season. Easy Final Four pick right? Absolutely.

No. 1? Well,....I'm just being stubborn here. I see an opener against USC. I see road games at Ole Miss, at Arkansas, at LSU and at Tennessee. And then there is a possible SEC championship game in Atlanta against an SEC East team that might have some teeth.

Don't get me wrong. This is still a Roll Tide season, which means into the Final Four. But No. 1 again. Not buying that....yet.

The countdown thus far: No. 16 Pepper Hamilton (Baylor), No. 15 Georgia, No. 14 Michigan State , No. 13 Miami, No. 12 Houston, No. 11 Ohio State, No. 10 Stanford, No. 9, No. 8 Tennessee, N0. 7 Notre Dame, No. 6 FSU, No. 5 Oklahoma, No. 4 LSU. [/membership]


Mark Blaudschun