Last Updated: 2018-07-20
The all-SEC National Championship Game was an instant classic. Backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa took over for Jalen Hurts and dropped the dime of all dimes to give Alabama its fifth National Championship under Nick Saban and second in the last three seasons. The Crimson Tide program has to deal with losses every offseason, ranging from players that leave early and players that graduate to coaches and coordinators that get hired at other programs. It never seems to matter, does it? Alabama has won at least 10 games every season since 2008 and at least 12 games in eight of those 10 seasons.
The song remains the same for 2018. The Crimson Tide will be #1 in just about every set of power ratings worth anything. They’ll be favored in all of their games and will likely compete for the College Football Playoff National Championship once again. There are only three returning starters on defense, but Alabama doesn’t rebuild, it reloads. Furthermore, because of blowouts and depth, a lot of players see the field in any given season for the Crimson Tide, so these replacements are hardly inexperienced.
Alabama is favored market-wide to win the National Championship, with prices ranging from +178 at 5Dimes to +200 at BetDSI and BetOnline. Tua Tagovailoa is also the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy at some shops. Alabama is -125 at BetOnline and -118 at 5Dimes to win the SEC. The season win total at BetOnline sits at 10.5 with the over -170 and at 11 with the under at -130 at 5Dimes. Keep in mind that these win total odds do not include conference championship games or bowl games.
||Louisville (N – Orlando)
Expected Wins: 11.27
Alabama has two quarterbacks to rely on this season. National Championship star and Heisman Trophy hopeful Tua Tagovailoa should get the starting gig, but we’re still going to see a lot of Jalen Hurts. Tagovailoa is the better passer of the two, as he completed 63.6 percent of his throws with a 11/2 TD/INT ratio, but Hurts had a 17/1 TD/INT ratio with a 60.4 percent completion rate of his own. He also was the team’s second-leading rusher with 5.6 yards per carry on 154 attempts. Once again, Alabama will have another new OC, as Mike Locksley has the “co-” removed from his title with Brian Daboll moving on. Locksley certainly has plenty of coaching experience, so this will not be a downgrade in any way. We’ll see if he utilizes a two-quarterback system or if this will be a true QB competition with a clear-cut winner.
Alabama will miss Calvin Ridley, who had 63 catches for 967 yards last season. No other receiver had more than 14 grabs and running back Bo Scarbrough was second on the team with 17 catches. He’s gone now, but the ground game is in great shape, as it always is. Damien Harris had exactly 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns and the depth is tremendous at the RB position. The passing game is a bit of a question mark and it may have some level of impact on the QB competition, as Hurts is the more creative guy when it comes to ad-libbing, which is something that may be needed a little bit more without a lot of experience at wide receiver. That being said, Alabama looks to be starting a trio of sophomores at wide receiver in Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and DeVonta Smith, who all saw the field as true freshmen last year. The offensive line returns four starters and will be as stout as ever, as Alabama has rushed for at least five yards per carry in six of the last seven seasons.
This is where things get interesting. Jeremy Pruitt took the head coaching job at Tennessee. It’s not like losing coaches is a rare thing for Alabama, as Nick Saban faced off against old defensive coordinator Kirby Smart in last year’s title game. The new DC is Tosh Lupol, who, like Locksley, was a co-coordinator last season. Alabama loses five of its top six tacklers, including names like Da’Ron Payne, Rashaan Evans, and Minkah Fitzpatrick. Seven players from last season’s Alabama defense were taken in the NFL Draft.
Highly-touted recruits are everywhere on the depth chart, though, and Alabama’s margin of victory allows a lot of guys to see the field. Last season in particular, significant injuries at the linebacker position forced Alabama to tap into its depth early and often, so the underclassmen and backups saw a lot of reps. The secondary is completely retooled, however. Top JUCO transfer and original LSU commit Saivion Smith could be the “saivior” of this secondary, but, as usual, there are a lot of top prospects and standout high school ballers with this group. We really have to nitpick when it comes to Alabama because weaknesses are so few and far between.
After all, the Crimson Tide project to be a double-digit favorite in 11 of their 12 games, depending on where you look for the Iron Bowl. We have them as double-digit chalk across the board based on our power ratings, which you can see by clicking the BangTheBook Line link in the table. Louisville looked a little different when that Week 1 matchup was scheduled and it should be a laugher now. Alabama plays only three true road games, though one of them is in Baton Rouge. LSU is down from past versions, so Alabama is still going to be big chalk in Death Valley.
Pick: Over 11 (+110, 5Dimes)
Find two losses on the schedule. You can’t. No team has ever made the College Football Playoff as a two-loss team and Alabama won’t threaten to be the first. Obviously there is no margin for error on this pick, as one loss means a push, but it’s still better than laying -170 at BetOnline on the over 10.5 Alabama avoids Georgia until the SEC Title Game in Atlanta. LSU is down and Auburn is a revenge game at home. You have to go back to 2010 to find the last time Alabama lost two regular season games. It won’t happen this year either, so the worst-case scenario is that you push.
-END OF 2018 PREVIEW-
Alabama Crimson Tide
SEC – West
2016 record: 14-1 SU & 9-4-2 ATS
Head Coach: Nick Saban – Head Coaching Experience: 22 years (11th with Alabama)
Season Over/Under Win Total: 10.5
Odds to win 2017 College Football Championship game: 3/1 (Best odds)
Returning Starters: 11 (Offense: 6 Defense: 5)
Rivals 2017 Recruiting ranking: #1 (total recruits: 29, 5-star: 7)
New Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll will take over play calling duties for what has been one of the most consistent offenses in the country under Saban (over 32 ppg last 8 years). Though the quarterback position hasn’t always played a primary role in these successful Tide offenses, (won 3 national championships under first year quarterbacks), it’s scary to consider that 2017 will be the first season since 2013 that Alabama actually returns a starting quarterback in Jalen Hurts. Last year, Hurts became the first true freshman to start at Alabama Since Vince Sutton in 1984, and became the 1st ever Tide QB to throw for 300 and rush for 100 in the same game. The job should be his to keep, but true freshman 5-star recruit Tua Tagovailoa has impressed this spring and could put some pressure on Hurts to preform.
Whether its Hurts or Tagovailoa, they will benefit from what should once again be one of the fiercest, if not the best running game in the country. Not only will they return Junior Damien Harris, their number one rusher yardage-wise (1037 yds, 7.1 ypc) from 2016, they will also return their late season and playoff star, Junior Bo Scarbrough, (844 yds, 11 TD). This will be the first time in 7 years that Alabama has not lost a RB that has gained over 875 yds, and adding the number 3 recruit in the country in 6’ 2” 227 lb Najee Harris, should make this the best running back corps in the nation.
One familiar face will return at WR this year, in two-time 2nd Team SEC Junior Calvin Ridley (72 rec, 769 yds, 7 tds), but many others are gone in #1 WR and 3rd round draft choice ArDarius Stewart, 1st round draft choice OJ Howard, and Gehrig Dieter who was picked up by the Chiefs as an undrafted Free Agent. Though one of the deepest WR corps with 13 top recruits on roster, replacing three of the top 4 receivers on the team is never easy, and some new faces will have to emerge to supplement the explosiveness of Calvin Ridley.
A strong offensive line has certainly been the norm under Nick Saban, and this year should be no exception. Though they will lose the first team All-american and Outland Trophy winner, LT Cam Robinson to the Jacksonville Jaguars (2nd round), and a couple of solid RG in Korren Kirven and Alphonse Taylor, they still return Jr. Lester Cotton at RG as well as Sophomore LT Johan Williams, who last year graded out as one of the best offensive linemen in the country as a true freshman.
Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt took over as Defense Coordinator in 2016 and did not disappoint, allowing just 262 YPG and 13 PPG, Alabama’s best numbers since 2013. Allowing just 64 RYPG last year with 54 sacks the Tide defensive line dominant to say the least last year, and will return a potential 1st round draft choice in Jr. NG Da’Ron Payne who would have been drafted this year had he chosen to go to the NFL. They will lose Negurski winner and 1st round draft pick DE Jonathan Allen, and 2nd draft pick Dalvin Tomlinson both to the NFL, but is just as experienced as it was last year with Senior DE Da’Shawn Hand returning alongside Payne.
To say that Alabama has some holes to fill at linebacker, is a bit like saying humans need oxygen to breathe. Their losses include: 1st team All-American, Butkus Award winning, and NFL 1st round draft pick, Reuben Foster, 3rd Team All-American and 3rd round NFL draft pick Tim Williams, and 3rd Team All-SEC and 2nd Round NFL draft pick Ryan Anderson. They will be experienced this year, however, in returning 6 of 9 backers from a year ago, and they are loaded with very highly recruited players, but it’s hard not to imagine this unit taking a step back this year.
The same thing can’t be said for the Defensive backs, however, as though they will lose 2nd Team SEC and 4th round draft pick SS Eddie Jackson and 1st team All-american and 1st round draft choice CB Marlon Humphrey, the other 10 defensive backs are returning. Junior Minkah Fitzpatrick will continue his transition to SS from CB, Senior Anthony Averett will return at corner, and Junior Ronnie Harrison will be back at FS. In spite of the losses, with this experience this should be one of the better secondaries in College Football.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Alabama is once again the odds-on favorite to win it all once again, at 3/1. With their season win total set at 10.5, the public perception is that the Tide lose 1, maybe 2 games, but they should be favored in all. They do have some tough tests on the road against Florida State to start the season, at Texas A&M, and at Auburn to wrap up the season, but they are likely to be the better team in all of these. Winning four titles in the last 8 years, Alabama will open the season once again as the Preseason AP #1 team, but it’s interesting to note that as a preseason #1, Alabama has never won a national championship.
Free Pick: Alabama Over
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