We take an early look at the Alabama Crimson Tide football squad and preview what it will take to earn them another National Title. How will they be viewed in the eyes of the odds makers, and should bettors be willing to back them with their sports picks?

Winning the NCAA's Division-I level national championship in football is going to require at least one more victory from this point forward, and you can bet that Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide will be among the College Football odds favorites to be part of the new playoff scheme, if not win it all.

Not that such a prediction will shock many folks given the rich history of Alabama football and three BCS Championships in the last five seasons. The Crimson Tide were a chalky 4/5 on the college football futures odds last summer to win their third consecutive BCS title, and appeared in good shape to do just that when they stood 11-0 heading into the season finale at Auburn.

The Tigers derailed those hopes with a stunning upset, and that was followed by a defeat at the hands of Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. You have to go back to 2010 to find the last time 'Bama dropped two or more games in the same season, and 2008 to find the last time the Tide suffered back-to-back losses. Each of those campaigns was followed by a National Championship.

Who Replaces AJ McCarron?

That has to be the first question posed when thinking about getting an NCAA football futures bet down on the Tide. McCarron guided the offense for three straight seasons with amazing consistency, and replacing him at quarterback as well as a leader isn't going to be easy. 

The spotlight is going to be squarely on Blake Sims who has served as McCarron's backup the past two years. The soon-to-be senior was a top QB recruit out of Georgia in '09, redshirting in 2010 before serving as a reserve running back in 2011. He's not a prototypical pocket, pro-style passer like McCarron, but it will be Sims' job to lose nonetheless. 

Should Sims not pan out or get injured, there isn't a lot of experience behind him; that doesn't mean there's not a lot of talent to fight it out for No. 2 on the depth chart. The battle appears to be between Alec Morris, a 2012 recruit, along with Cooper Bateman and Luke Del Rio, both true freshmen this past season and both early enrollees at Alabama last spring. 

David Cornwell, the only QB recruit in the latest class to commit to Alabama at this time, will enroll in Tuscaloosa for the spring semester, and is expected to redshirt in 2014. 

Returning Starters Bolstered By Top-Rated Recruiting Class

McCarron isn't the only key starter to use up his eligibility. Anthony Steen, a 3-year starter on the offensive line, also won't be returning after an injury-plagued senior season saw him miss the Sugar Bowl vs. Oklahoma due to shoulder surgery. Grant Hill, a true freshman in 2013, and redshirt frosh Alphonse Taylor figure to vie for the starting left guard job. 

On the defensive side, linebacker CJ Mosley's team-leading 108 tackles have to be replaced, along with 2-year starting end Ed Stinson. Saban is also going to have to plug both cornerback spots left vacant by the departures of Deion Belue and John Fulton.

He'll have plenty of sophomores and juniors from 2013 to find fill-ins at those spots, and Saban also has what many believe to be the top-rated 2014 recruiting class. Among them are 5-star recruits Cameron Robinson (OT), Da'Shawn Hand (DE) and Tony Brown (CB). The new freshman class might even get better if 'Bama can convince DB Marlon Humphrey and DE Matt Elam to hop aboard.

'14 Schedule Nicely Split In Thirds

No SEC schedule is easy, but Alabama's 2014 slate does look favorable. It begins just like 2013 did with a neutral site contest at the Georgia Dome, this time against the West Virginia Mountaineers. The Tide then return home for three straight, the last being their conference opener vs. the Florida Gators before the first of two bye weeks.

October is travel month for 'Bama with games at Ole Miss, Arkansas and Tennessee. A home date vs. the Texas A&M Aggies comes between the battles with the Razorbacks and Volunteers before Alabama takes the first Saturday of November off. 

Game 9 on the schedule is in Baton Rouge against the LSU Tigers, always a big game, and that is followed by home dates vs. Mississippi State, Western Carolina and Auburn. Rest assured every Crimson Tide player and coach has Nov. 29 against the Tigers circled on their calendars. 

Keep checking back at SBR all spring and summer for updates and previews for the 2014 college football season, as well as our free College Football picks.