1. Alabama Crimson Tide (12-0, 8-0)
Rankings (Ex, Vg, Av, Fr, Pr)
Running Backs: Vg
Wide Receivers: Vg
Offensive Line: Vg
Defensive Line: Vg
Defensive Backs: Vg
Special Teams: Vg
In short, Alabama is one of three SEC teams that have the potential to be dominant in 2021, but only if the offense doesn’t lose a step while transitioning from Mac Jones to Bryce Young at quarterback. This is the deepest team in the conference by far and should have one of the best defenses of Nick Saban’s tenure.
Offense: What could go right
Young is versatile in ways Mac Jones was not, especially while scrambling. He extends plays with ease and has much better than average accuracy. He will be a Heisman Trophy candidate if he gets off to a strong start. The running back group may have lost Najee Harris, but it retains its depth, and any one of five guys could carry this team. Alabama’s superior speed at wide receiver, tight end and running back will create mismatches across the field. While Alabama did lose offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, replacing him with Bill O’Brien, the offensive system won’t change much.
Offense: What could go wrong
Until either Jameson Williams, Traeshon Holden or JoJo Earle step up, receiver will be long on potential and short on proven ability. John Metchie was an excellent second or third option the last couple of years, but he’ll be asked to carry the unit despite being a bit unconventional in makeup. The tight end position lacks the big boomer for the running game it has had in the past. But the biggest source of potential concern is the offensive line, particularly the right tackle position. It will take awhile for the line to come together, especially since nagging injuries began hitting once camp started.
Defense: What could go right
Everything. Alabama has really only two question marks – who will replace DL Christian Barmore and CB Patrick Surtain. Every other question has been answered. The depth at linebacker is just silly, and across the board Alabama goes four or five deep at most of its 11 defensive positions with elite-level athletes. While a lot of the attention has focused on new MLB Henry To’o To’o, the real action might take place outside, where OLBs Christopher Allen and Will Anderson Jr. have been disruptive in camp pass-rush situations.
Defense: What could go wrong
Not finding someone to replace Barmore would allow offensive lines more freedom to devote additional resources to stopping Allen and Anderson. Also, Josh Jobe now becomes the primary cornerback, and his personality and makeup is quite a bit different than was Surtain’s. When Alabama has struggled on defense recently, it’s usually been due to a lack of composure in tense situations. Also, there will be some degree of pressure on defensive coordinator Pete Golding to produce overwhelming numbers given the amount of talent he has on hand.
One-sentence summary: Alabama is the elite of the elites.
Two games stand out on the schedule, a home game against LSU and a road trip to Texas A&M. Navigate those two, especially the visit to College Station, and Alabama could be looking at its next title.
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