Strengths: Offense is rarely the focal point of a Nick Saban team, but the 2010 Tide's offense could be one of the nation's best with nearly all the critical skill-position contributors coming back -- quarterback Greg McElroy; Heisman-winning tailback Mark Ingram and understudy Trent Richardson, who many have said might be even better than Ingram; and the top three WRs from last year, Julio Jones, Marquis Maze, and Darius Hanks. And while having to start a freshman (D.J. Fluker) on the O-line would ordinarily be a cause for acid reflux, they did it last year with Barrett Jones (in a year when the line was supposed to be a question mark to begin with) and it worked out just fine.
Weaknesses: It isn't just the number of defensive players Bama has lost, it's the quality -- four went in the first two rounds of the NFL draft alone. The Tide now enter 2010 wielding just two starters from last year's second-in-the-nation defense, none of them from the D-line. Special teams are getting a complete overhaul as well, with 2009's top kicker, punter, PR and KR all having graduated.
Key player: NT Josh Chapman. It's no secret to anyone that Bama's 3-4 defensive alignment relies heavily on a gargantuan nose tackle to plug gaps up front. Chapman -- a bit undersized for the position at 6'1", 310 -- has the formidable task of filling Terrence Cody's shoes.
Best chance to make a statement: Oct. 2 vs. Florida. If the Tide pick up right where they left off after last year's dismembering of the Gators in the Georgia Dome, there'll be no doubt about their chops as a repeat national-title contender.
Best chance to get tripped up: Sept. 25 at Arkansas. In Fayetteville, against the conference's best QB, are not the circumstances where you want to be tinkering with a rebuilt defense.
Goals for 2010: Another national title. Why not? There may be a lot of new faces on D, but with the coaching they've got and the raw talent they've amassed over a series of stellar recruiting seasons, there's no reason to think the Tide is headed for instant collapse.
2010 SEC Football Preview: West Division