Alabama Football: A mostly serious look at the toughest 2018 opponents

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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Alabama football QB, Jalen Hurts
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

No. 4 – Auburn

The biggest surprise in rating Auburn last season and in 2018 is the talent on defense. No one would have predicted Gus would let a defensive coordinator sign enough recruits to build a top defense. But Gus has shared the wealth and Kevin Steele has delivered.

In typical feast or famine Auburn fashion, Gus might have a good team or a not very good team. He needs new offensive line starters and a capable running back to share the load with Kam Martin. Jarrett Stidham gives the Tigers an accurate long ball threat. Wide receiver could be a problem with both Will Hastings and Eli Stove having serious knee injuries during the spring.

Auburn does not have an easy schedule and it may prevent them from competing for the SEC West. Washington will be favored in the season opener in Atlanta. Mississippi State, Georgia and Alabama are all Auburn road games and probably three losses. The only reason we placed Auburn at No. 4 rather than at No. 5 or No. 6 is they get to play Alabama football in an annual rivalry game, where strange things happen.

No. 3 – Georgia

The Georgia Bulldogs may not be better than last season. The losses to the NFL are tough to fill. Kirby may have a running back duo to replace Chubb and Michel in D’Andre Swift and Zamir White if he is healthy. Riley Ridley could be a star at wide receiver. Kirby also has to manage a potential disruptive conflict at quarterback with Jake Fromm and freshman phenom Justin Fields.

The Bulldogs have an extensive rebuild on the defensive side of the ball. Gone are Roquan Smith and almost the entire front seven. Most of the secondary also needs new starters for 2018. There is depth but it will be a work-in-progress throughout the season. Georgia fans believe the offense will be more explosive than last season, thereby taking considerable pressure off the unproven defense.

Georgia has a favorable schedule. The Bulldogs travel to LSU, Missouri and South Carolina. They get Auburn in Athens and of course, Florida in Jacksonville. The Gamecocks may be the toughest test in the regular season. In the season’s second week, the young defense may not be stabilized.

Prediction: Alabama football and the Bulldogs in Atlanta for the SEC Championship