Jan 2, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Derrick Woods (12) is tackled by Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Landon Collins (26) in the first half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

The Top Alabama Crimson Tide storylines of 2014

It seems so close. The weather is getting warmer. A-Day is approaching. You can almost see Aug. 30 on the horizon. It’s almost time for Alabama football. And on that note, here are the seven biggest story lines we’ll be following for the 2014 season:

The Lane Kiffin Experiment

Nick Saban will cement his legacy as bonafide genius or be the target of (further) derision from every SEC fan who will take gleeful delight if Kiffin fails. Most of that will come from schools who wear hideous orange. Should the experiment fail, the upside will be that, while Vols fans are tickled orangish pink, they will be doing so while hoping to scrape out enough wins for a Music City Bowl bid.

MY EXPERT PREDICTION: The LKE will prove a success, and Bama’s offense will be a huge strength.

The quarterback

While Jacob Coker will not be at A-Day to play, he’s the odds-on favorite to be the starter. That said, Blake Sims could step up his game for the spot he probably thought was his until Coker came north from Tallahassee.

MY EXPERT PREDICTION: Coker starts from day one.

The RBs

This is T.J. Yeldon’s year to shine and show some maturity he lacked in previous campaigns. It’s time for him to step up and be a team leader. He’s got ample talent nipping at his heels, most notably Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake. Altee Tenpenny will no doubt be looking to make Saban forget about off-field shenanigans, so expect him to run hard and fast every chance he gets.

MY EXPERT PREDICTION: Yeldon gets the lion share of the carries, but expect multiple games with Yeldon topping 100 yards along with another RB mate.

The defensive QB

CJ Mosley is gone, and it’s time for another player to step into the spotlight to be the on-field leader of the D. Dillon Lee is in the same boat as Tenpenny, so he’ll be playing his heart out. But youth may be in command.

MY EXPERT PREDICTION: Landon Collins assumes the role of young spirit guide for a gifted group of athletes.

That play

That stinking play to end that stinking Iron Bowl. Every time Alabama lines up for a field goal announcers will have their chance to reference back to it. Stay strong, Bama Nation – we’re going to see that play roughly 54,000 times next season. Use it as motivation.

MY EXPERT PREDICTION: You will hate every announcer anyway, so just use this as fuel for the fire.

The playoff

Right about the time the BCS would debut each year was the time everyone started roadmapping title paths. This year, it will be based on schedules. Mark Oct. 18 for Alabama. We host Texas A&M (where Kevin Sumlin gets to prove if he is a really good coach or just had Manziel and Evans). Follow that with visits to UT and LSU, and the mapping will be off the chart.

MY EXPERT PREDICTION: We’re in. Top four? No problem.

The Iron Bowl

Back to that play. Ugh. Gus Malzahn led a charmed life in 2013. Insanely improbable wins against Bama and Georgia led them to the National Title Game, where, let’s forget, they let the entire SEC down by losing to an ACC team. That said, they should be a decent team again this year, and we should have a showdown between two highly ranked teams, both probably in the hunt for a playoff invite.

MY EXPERT PREDICTION: Saban will channel his inner-Conan the Barbarian and find the best in life when Auburn comes to town.

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