2011 Alabama or 2012 Alabama, who would win?

A tweet from @beyondthebets Thursday was pretty interesting, and got us thinking a little bit.

The tweet was a response to something ESPN's Mel Kiper said on air. Apparently Kiper was talking to his friends in Vegas and was told by Wynn oddsmaker Johnny Avello that 2011 Alabama would be a 7-point favorite against this year's Alabama team.


Here's the tweet (and a link to Beyond the Bets' excellent blog, too):

Before we get into this debate, let us lay out a disclaimer. We hated when a certain network spent weeks leading up to the Rose Bowl at the end of the 2005 season debating if the USC team could beat the greatest teams of all time, before it even played Texas. USC, of course, lost that Rose Bowl. So maybe it couldn't beat 1971 Nebraska after all. Alabama could lose this week to LSU. The Crimson Tide could lose to Florida or Georgia in the SEC title game or to Oregon or whoever in the BCS Championship Game. It's crazy to start debating a team's place in history before we know what that team's history is.

[Also: Pat Forde: Alabama coach Nick Saban is, indeed, a curmudgeon]

Yet, this is a pretty interesting topic, and definitely a better debate than the inane notion Steve Spurrier threw out there that Alabama could beat some NFL teams (Shutdown Corner did a fine job explaining why that's dumb). At least we're comparing apples and apples here.

The 2011 Alabama team was a force, and a 9-6 loss to LSU that featured four missed field goals doesn't really change how great that team was. Consider that four Crimson Tide players that are starting and playing well in the NFL right now (Trent Richardson, Mark Barron, Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw ... and Dre Kirkpatrick probably would be the fifth had he he not gotten hurt). That's a lot of talent on last year's team that isn't around anymore.

This year's team has a ton of talent too, and Las Vegas oddsmaker Ed Salmons told the Linemakers on Sporting News that Alabama is the strongest team he has seen in his career, which spans decades. Which obviously makes them superior to the 2011 team.

"They have the highest [power rating] number I've ever had on a team," Salmons, a sports book manager and college football specialist at the LVH SuperBook, told the Linemakers on Sporting News.

[Also: McCarron has an opportunity to steal Heisman]

Alabama has been favored in 36 straight games, the story said. Alabama is about a 9-point favorite at LSU this week.

The 2011 Alabama team had some great players who have moved on to the pros, but this year's team has an incredible freshman class and all the current players are a year better. Alabama hasn't played the toughest schedule yet this season, but has demolished both ranked teams it has faced, Michigan and Mississippi State. We'd probably lean to 2011 Alabama, given those great players that moved on to the NFL after last season, but not by a wide margin.

It's a fun hypothetical to consider. Even two prominent oddsmakers are far apart on this one. So who are you taking?

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