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February 23, 2012

SEC Spring Preview: Alabama

The next time Missouri plays a game it will be as a member of the Southeastern Conference. Over the next few weeks, PowerMizzou.com will introduce Tiger fans to their new league. We will do a question and answer session with our counterparts at each SEC school prior to spring football. Today, talk about Mizzou opponent and reigning national champion Alabama with Chase Goodbread, who covers Crimson Tide football for TideSports.com.

Is Alabama set up to make a run at a dynasty over the next few years?

Goodbread: "That depends, of course, on how one defines the term dynasty. But if the definition is three national championships under one head coach, it's hard to imagine Nick Saban won't have his team at least in position to win a third at some point in the near future. There may be too many new faces on defense for this team to repeat in 2012, as there were in 2010 when UA sustained three losses, but the depth at virtually every position has enjoyed four-star nurturing since 2008, when Saban's first true signing class came together."

What are the biggest holes to fill off of last year's national title team?

Goodbread: "Offensively, Alabama must replace Trent Richardson at running back, center William Vlachos, receivers Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks, and H-back Brad Smelley. Areas of concern on defense include defensive back, where three starters have been lost, as well as linebacker and nose guard. As much of a playmaker as Richardson was, it will be the defensive losses that will be most difficult to replace."

What are the team's biggest strengths headed into spring ball?

Goodbread: "The offensive line returns four starters, including Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones, from a unit that was outstanding in 2011. With plenty of returning experience, this group should pave the way for another sound rushing attack and plenty of time in the pocket for second-year quarterback AJ McCarron. Defensively, ends Jesse Williams and Damion Square are returning starters who will be called on to provide some leadership for what will be a relatively young front seven."

Have the expectations in Tuscaloosa become almost national title or bust?

Goodbread: "While national championships have a lot to do with how things are measured in Tuscaloosa, it would be a mischaracterization to suggest that UA fans don't have an appreciation for Southeastern Conference titles. They are elusive in their own right. For all of Alabama's success under Nick Saban, he has won only one conference championship at UA, and the Crimson Tide has skipped a lot of years over its last three SEC titles (1992, 1999, 2009)."

What is the biggest potential roadblock for next season? LSU or Arkansas?

Goodbread: "Until Bob Petrino proves he can beat Alabama, the Crimson Tide's bigger concern will be LSU. Tigers coach Les Miles is 3-3 against Nick Saban head to head since Saban arrived at UA, while Arkansas is 0-5. The Tigers will have a new quarterback, but the overall talent level in Baton Rouge is more impressive than what the Razorbacks are working with."

Chase Goodbread is the Alabama football beat writer TideSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @ChaseGoodbread.

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