Every season is national championship or bust for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Once again, that held true last season. The Tide breezed through the regular season 11-0, only to fall to Auburn in the Iron Bowl the last week of the season.
That loss deprived Alabama of the chance to play in the SEC Championship Game. But it wasn’t enough to keep them out of the College Football Playoff. Alabama dismantled Clemson in the national semi-final and proceeded to beat Georgia in dramatic come-from-behind fashion to claim the fifth national title during Nick Saban’s tenure in Tuscaloosa.
Of course, that was last year and Saban’s sole focus is on the 2018 season. As usual, the Crimson Tide is expected to win the national championship, and anything less will be considered a disappointment.
Heading into the season, Alabama has the best odds of winning the national championship at +178. Oddsmakers also have the Crimson Tide projected to win 11 games in 2018. During Saban’s time at Alabama, there’s only been one year when the Crimson Tide didn’t win at least 11 games during the regular season. When you consider that track record, it’s a safe bet that Alabama will reach 11 wins this year.
Of course, before Alabama starts winning any games, they’ll have to sort out their quarterback situation between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. Hurts has been the starter the past two seasons. But he was pulled in the second half of the title game against Georgia. He then watched as Tagovailoa led the comeback and threw the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime. The situation was unresolved after spring practice, so at some point, Saban will have to pick one of them to lead the team.
Regardless of the quarterback, the Crimson Tide should have no problem running the ball down the throat of opposing teams this season. Alabama returns four starters along the offensive line. They also have Damien Harris back as the primary ball carrier. Harris has rushed for at least 1,000 yards each of the past two seasons. If there’s a weakness on the Alabama offense, it could be at wide receiver. There wasn’t a ton of production at that position last year outside of the now-departed Calvin Ridley.
Defensively, Alabama will have to replace a lot of NFL-caliber talent. Of course, that’s nothing new for the Crimson Tide. The secondary will be a little inexperienced. But Alabama still has excellent linebackers and plenty of big bodies up front to win the war in the trenches. As long as they win the battle at the line of scrimmage, the young secondary shouldn’t be too vulnerable.
Assuming the quarterback situation gets sorted out, there’s no reason to think that Alabama won’t win at least 11 games during the regular season. Also, barring something unforeseen, it’s a safe assumption they will find their way into the College Football Playoff.
|Sep 1||Louisville Cardinals||8:00 PM|
|Sep 8||Arkansas State Red Wolves||3:30 PM|
|Sep 15||@ Mississippi Rebels||7:00 PM|
|Sep 22||Texas A&M Aggies||1:00 PM|
|Sep 29||Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns||1:00 PM|
|Oct 6||@ Arkansas Razorbacks||1:00 PM|
|Oct 13||Missouri Tigers||1:00 PM|
|Oct 20||@ Tennessee Volunteers||12:00 PM|
|Nov 3||@ Louisiana State Tigers||1:00 PM|
|Nov 10||Mississippi State Bulldogs||1:00 PM|
|Nov 17||Citadel Bulldogs||1:00 PM|
|Nov 24||Auburn Tigers||1:00 PM|
There’s no such thing as an easy schedule in the SEC West, but Alabama’s schedule this season is “less difficult” than most years. The two best teams on the schedule, Mississippi State and Auburn, are both home games for the Tide. Ole Miss, Arkansas, and LSU could be tricky road games, but those teams don’t come close to Alabama talent-wise. The same is true for the season-opener against Louisville.
Obviously, not even Alabama can take anything for granted in the SEC. But the Crimson Tide’s schedule has fewer potential pitfalls than usual. Even with the starting quarterback spot undecided, Alabama should be considered a heavy favorite to win the SEC and play in the College Football Playoff.