It wasn't easy, but achieving greatness never is
After losing to Texas A&M to fall out of the BCS National Championship picture, coach Nick Saban's squad never hung its head.
Quarterback AJ McCarron, center Barrett Jones, running back Eddie Lacy -- none of those guys, nor any other member of the Tide, do anything except keep their noses to the grindstone and work towards their ultimate goal.
Finally, Bama got to Miami after scratching, clawing, fighting and biting their way to a win over Georgia in the SEC title game. Once the Tide arrived on South Beach, however, the winners of two of the nation's three previous national championships made defending their crown look easy, blowing away Notre Dame, 42-14.
The Alabama Crimson Tide has already achieved the status of a dynasty, becoming the first team ever to repeat as BCS National Champions and having won it all in three of the last four years.
So what can we expect out of this now-legendary coaching staff and its team as the Tide once again gears up to defend its crown in 2013?
The journey towards a three-peat begins with AJ McCarron
Chris Wienke of Florida State, despite winning a Heisman Trophy, could not do it. Neither could fellow Heisman winner Matt Leinhart of USC. Miami's Ken Dorsey also attempted it, but failed to succeed as well.
Where these three great college football quarterbacks all failed, Alabama's AJ McCarron has thrived.
In completing 20 of his 28 passing attempts for 264 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions, McCarron became the first quarterback in the history of the BCS to win back-to-back national championships.
Not bad for a guy seen as merely a 'game manager' despite having been named the Offensive MVP of the 2012 title game win over LSU.
Prior to the game against Notre Dame, McCarron confirmed his intention of sticking around Tuscaloosa for his senior year.
Winning a third-straight title would be unprecedented and would officially serve as a coronation for McCarron in terms of his place amongst the greatest collegiate quarterbacks of all time.
The rest of the offense is not rebuilding, but reloading
Mark Ingram started it all with a Heisman Trophy-winning performance before heading to the NFL. Trent Richardson followed him up en route to a national title of his own and a No. 3-overall selection in the NFL Draft.
Eddie Lacy, otherwise known as 'Circle Button' for his otherworldly spin move, came next, and he blew away the nation in the season's final months. After piling up 181 yards against Georgia in the SEC title game, Lacy went off in rushing for another 140 against the nation's toughest defensive front in Notre Dame to win Offensive MVP honors in the national championship game.
His draft stock has never been higher, but his departure (if he leaves), simply put, will not be felt in Tuscaloosa -- such is the ability of the next great Tide running back to step to the forefront, TJ Yeldon. Yeldon compiled 1,000 yards in the regular season of his true freshman year, and he managed to crack 100 yards against the Golden Domers himself.
True freshman Amari Cooper will move closer to dominance as a sophomore wide receiver.
Barrett Jones, one of the greatest offensive linemen in the history of college football, is gone after winning three titles at three different positions. His heir apparent is 6-foot-5, 288-pound Ryan Kelly, a former four-star recruit and top-five prospect at his position.
Jones himself has talked about is excitement in grooming Kelly -- again, reloading, not rebuilding.
A relatively inexperienced defense returns almost everyone
Nick Saban's offense is not the only unit that reloads. After losing the team's top six tacklers to the NFL Draft a season ago, defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was forced to basically put together an entirely different defense.
With his crown jewel, linebacker CJ Mosley, in the middle.
Mosley finished the 2011 season with 36 tackles, seventh on the team. In 2012, Mosley shot to the top of the list, leading an inexperienced defensive squad with a whopping 107 tackles -- far ahead of Trey DePriest, who finished second for Bama with 59 tackles.
But it is all good, because DePriest, another linebacker, will be a junior next season.
Once again, he will join forces with Mosley, the title game's Defensive MVP, who, like McCarron, announced before the game that he would be returning for his senior year in Tuscaloosa.
Beyond the two of them, safety Vinnie Sunseri, who finished with 54 tackles and two interceptions, will also be a junior. So will Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who led the Tide with four picks in 2012.
Many fans and media types repeatedly called this Alabama defense the program's weakest in years, despite giving up a mere 10.7 points per game, second-best in the country.
Next year, opposing teams will not be so lucky to face such a 'weak' defense.
Let we forget, special teams are one-third of the game
Placekicker Jeremy Shelley, while not called upon too often thanks for a prolific rushing attack and the nation's most efficient passer, was almost there when Saban needed him.
Shelley only attempted 11 field goals on the year, but he made all of them. Of his 69 extra point attempts, he made 69, making him absolutely perfect in what ended up being a championship season for the Tide.
His backup, junior Cade Foster, will presumably take over for Shelley, who is graduating. However, Forster only made four of his nine field goal attempts.
The Alabama kicker has not been asked to do very much over the last half-decade. Yet, should Shelley have been called upon, he showed that in all likelihood he could have been depended upon to win a game.
Can the same be said of Foster, or whomever else earns the kicking duties in the future?