Originally posted on Crystal Ball Run  |  Last updated 1/26/13

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 02: Kick returner Javier Arenas #28 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates with head coach Nick Saban after Arenas scored on a 73-yard punt return in the second quarter against the Utah Utes during the 75th Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 2, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

After sorting through who we think will be the top teams in the country next college football season, was there any doubt who we are pegging as the team to beat? Really, this was one of the simplest decisions we have had to come together on since the launch of the site two years ago. The Alabama Crimson Tide, until proven otherwise, will remain on top of the college football mountain, champions not only of the SEC but also the BCS. For Nick Saban and company, it is a comfortable perch that will difficult for any opposing forces to knock them from. Despite losing some weapons from the 2012 roster, Alabama is in a position where they can think about reloading once again, instead of rebuilding. The Good: Let's start with the obvious. Nick Saban is sticking around instead of attempting another shot at the NFL, and when Saban is in charge thing seem to get done at a high level. Second, the Crimson Tide will return quarterback AJ McCarron, who is cocky but confident and competent enough to back it up. Having a quarterback who has led the team to two national championships is an advantage no other team will have and that winning experience can go a long way. Alabama's running game will still be strong despite losing Eddie Lacy to the NFL a year early. T.J. Yeldon is more than ready to step in as the featured back after rushing for 1,108 yards in his freshman season and Kenyan Drake, Blake Sims and Dee Hart will compete to contribute as well. Alabama's leading receiver, Amari Cooper, had 999 receiving yards as a freshman so it should be clear that the Tide will have their go-to receiver ready to go. Alabama's defense also brings back a number of young rising stars, including junior linebackers Adrian Hubbard and Trey DePriest and junior defensive back Vinnie Sunseri. The Bad: The schedule. While we know that Alabama rises to the occasion, the Crimson Tide will open the year with two games away from home that could have upset potential. The season kicks off in the Georgia Dome against Virginia Tech, which should be a win for the Tide as the Hokies have seen better days. After the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game against the ACC's Virginia Tech, Alabama takes a week off to prepare for an SEC road opener at Texas Tech, with Johnny Manziel and the Aggies being the only team able to beat Alabama last season. We expect Saban will have his team a little more prepared this time around for the new SEC West rival, but the 12th Man at home with Manziel looking to take the next step poses a legitimate threat to Alabama's early track back to the BCS Championship Game, and perhaps the SEC Championship Game. Alabama can afford one loss, but could they afford two setbacks out of the gates? The Uncertain: The 2013 season may be one of the most challenging for Saban yet. After winning back-to-back national titles and three out of the last four, the bar has been set as high as anyone could possibly imagine. The success enjoyed shows what rewards can come from hard work, but could all of this success go to the heads of many of the younger players on the team? Keeping the team focused will be a legitimate challenge for Saban, but he is probably as equipped and mentally prepared for the challenge as anyone. And we're not exactly suggesting Alabama is going to have a BCS title hangover in 2013. They didn't in 2012, and they didn't really in 2011 either. So why would that be the case now? Be sure to check out the rest of CBR's "Way Too Early" Top 10: 10. Florida Gators 9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish 8. Clemson Tigers 7. Georgia Bulldogs 6. Louisville Cardinals 5. Ohio State University Buckeyes 4. Stanford Cardinal 3. Texas A&M Aggies 2. Oregon Ducks

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