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Previews 2016: Alabama Crimson Tide

Previews 2016: Alabama Crimson Tide

Defending national champions once again, Alabama looks even better on paper heading into 2016 than it did before the 2015 season started. But like last year, Alabama must replace key cogs in the machine, most notably quarterback, along with the core of its defense. Attrition that was heavy even by Alabama standards could play a factor in the team’s season outlook.

Clemson preview: Quick start a must as Bama tries to tame emotional Tigers

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Clemson preview: Quick start a must as Bama tries to tame emotional Tigers

The Alabama Crimson Tide is set to play for a national title for the fourth time in the last seven years.

Although that has little to do with the current matchup, such a feat demands to be paid attention. It has been 30 years almost since the Miami Hurricanes appeared ready to run off a similar streak of domination. Nebraska had a brief spike of similar play in the 1990s. But surely, all thought, the days of a handful of teams laying waste to the rest of the competition had come and gone.

Instead, Nick Saban returned to college football after a brief stint in the NFL, and everything old is new again – namely, an Alabama program that once dominated college football in the 1960s and 1970s is again making everyone else hate the program passionately – out of envy.

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Auburn preview: Tide tries to avoid trap at Jordan-Hare

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Auburn preview: Tide tries to avoid trap at Jordan-Hare

Alabama’s path to college football’s Final Four is clear. But even the clearest of paths can encounter an obstruction during a trip to Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium.

For all the talk about throwing out record books, the better team usually wins this game. Notable exceptions have been in 2013 (Kick Six) and 1984 (Wrong Way Bo). That’s the thing about this rivalry: Games are named after their defining plays, and are replayed for decades to come as if they just happened last week.

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Tennessee wrap-up: Bama squeezes Big Orange hearts with late win

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Tennessee wrap-up: Bama squeezes Big Orange hearts with late win

A game like this was almost expected, the result of Alabama being faced, week after week, with a gauntlet of rested teams, thanks to the SEC office’s inability (or lack of desire) to address unfair scheduling practices.

And in this case, the Crimson Tide nearly paid the price for the circumstances outside its control.

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Tennessee preview: Vols could be a tougher foe than Bama expects

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Tennessee preview: Vols could be a tougher foe than Bama expects

Every season, one or two teams seem to rise above their typical watermarks and give Alabama a tougher game than it would otherwise appear on paper.

Alabama is hoping Ole Miss filled the role in Week 3, but in 2009, that team was Tennessee, then led by a young head coach named Lane Kiffin. It took two blocked field goals by DT Terrence Cody, the second coming as time ran out, for Alabama to hold onto the win and eventually play for a national championship.

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Texas A&M preview: Improving defense, explosive offense gives Aggies a chance

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Texas A&M preview: Improving defense, explosive offense gives Aggies a chance

Over its first few seasons after joining the SEC, Texas A&M felt like a jigsaw puzzle missing a couple of pieces.

The Aggies found those missing pieces after they hired John Chavis, the former Tennessee and LSU defensive coordinator, to coach them at the same position. Chavis immediately brought a toughness to the job that the Aggies had been lacking. Although Texas A&M is far from a defensive powerhouse in 2015, the improvement is noticeable, and more is expected in the future.

Alabama enters this game coming off its second physical test in a row. Alabama has beaten Georgia and Arkansas in successive weeks, and now must face the high-powered spread attack brought by Texas A&M. With rival Tennessee coming to Tuscaloosa the week after this game, many Alabama fans are worried that this contest has all the makings of a textbook trap game and upset.

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Arkansas preview: Razorbacks may not have the horses to win this one

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Arkansas preview: Razorbacks may not have the horses to win this one

It is easy to dismiss Arkansas as “Georgia Lite” given the Razorbacks’ offensive tendencies, but Arkansas has frequently been a tough out for Alabama. So much so, in fact, that Alabama needs to avoid falling into the trap posed by this direct-from-central-casting “trap game.”

In 2014, Arkansas took Alabama to the wire before the Crimson Tide eventually won, 14-13. It was the game that the Alabama coaches used to eventually define the 2014 squad, and it also marked the last game QB Blake Sims really struggled to get through. In 2015, Alabama gets the Hogs a week after rolling around like a bunch of hogs in the Georgia mud. Fortunately for Alabama, the fourth quarter of its win over Georgia was little more than a mutual slap-fest, as prescribed by the stunningly poor weather conditions.

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ULM Preview: Alabama has to set an identity while it still can

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ULM Preview: Alabama has to set an identity while it still can

The last time Louisiana-Monroe visited Bryant-Denny Stadium, the year was 2007 and Nick Saban was in the process of installing “The Process” into the Alabama program. By now, everyone knows what happened: A technically sound and well-coached Louisiana-Monroe squad upset a struggling and largely rudderless Alabama team, which at the time provided a source of great amusement for media across the country, but particularly the media of south Florida.

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Wisconsin recap: Typical Bama opener offers promise, shows need for improvement

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Wisconsin recap: Typical Bama opener offers promise, shows need for improvement

Alabama’s offense, retooled in the wake of Blake Sims’ departure, showed enough effectiveness to allay fears about the quarterback position. The defense stuffed the run, and the defensive line, as expected, dominated the line of scrimmage.

But Alabama didn’t show itself to be a flawless team. The pass defense was sketchy all night, particularly across the middle, and Alabama’s kicking game once again disappointed.

In other words, Nick Saban has his team right where he wants them.

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Wisconsin preview: Badgers hope one dimension is enough against Bama

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Wisconsin preview: Badgers hope one dimension is enough against Bama

For Wisconsin, a game against Alabama in Week 1 is a bit like engaging in a demolition derby – against a Ross Winans steam locomotive, rather than an old sedan.

Alabama has been, ever since Nick Saban’s arrival, a machine. It doesn’t always move fast, but it moves deliberately, it’s hard to stop and almost impossible to overpower. And while Alabama has made forays into what many observers like to call “modern football” – i.e., the hurry-up, no-huddle offenses and their variants – Alabama wins with brawn and depth.

Shortly after Barry Alvarez’s arrival in Madison, Wisc., the Badgers became somewhat of the Alabama of the Big Ten – Gene Stallings’ Alabama, that is. Wisconsin throws the ball only when a judge orders it. Otherwise, Wisconsin is content to bury its opponents under a pile of rubble, occasionally lobbing the ball to a receiver just to keep them interested. While Wisconsin finished the 2014 season with an impressive 11-3 record, the Badgers had their hands full with any team it couldn’t physically intimidate. Most notably, Wisconsin fell 59-0 to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.

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