Alabama Football: Picking the Tide’s toughest ’18 opponent is not easy


The toughest Alabama football, 2018 regular season opponents all come from inside the SEC.  Picking the greatest SEC threats is not easy.

The 14 Alabama football losses going back to the 2008 season offer three conclusions. The first conclusion has been widely discussed going back to 2008 and Tim Tebow. The one, most important ingredient in a victory over Alabama football, is extraordinary quarterback play.

Tebow in 2008, Garcia and Newton in 2010, Manziel in 2012 and Deshaun Watson in 2016 were kryptonite to Alabama football defenses. Any Ole Miss fan who is offended Chad Kelly was not included in the previous sentence.  – the Tide lost to the Rebels/Black Bears in 2015 because of five turnovers.

Five of the 14 Alabama football losses are chalked up to opposing quarterbacks. Two more, Utah in 2008 and Oklahoma in 2013 were caused by a Tide team not enthused for either game. Four more losses it is fair to say the Tide was outplayed or plainly whipped. Those four are LSU in 2010, Ole Miss in 2014, Ohio State in 2014 and Auburn in 2017.

The other two of the 14 losses were in most ways just flukes. The LSU loss in 2011 was due to field goal misses. The Auburn game in 2013 speaks for itself.

Do any 2018 regular season games fit into any of the above patterns? Certainly, flukes and turnovers can lead to unpredictable losses. A Utah or Oklahoma lackluster performance is not expected in 2018. Can the 2018 Tide get ‘outplayed’ or ‘plainly whipped’ in the regular season? Short of an injury meltdown similar to last season, the answer is probably not.

Which takes us back to the opposing QB’s. Who among them has the talent and the supporting cast to be Alabama football kryptonite? It is not too hard to choose the QB’s. Assessing the supporting tasks is a bit more difficult.

Best QB’s the Tide will face in 2018

Again, this post is about regular season opponents only. Four regular-season opposing QB’s can challenge the Tide enough for an upset. They are Jordan Ta’amu at Ole Miss, Nick Fitzgerald at Mississippi State, Jarrett Stidham at Auburn and Drew Lock at Missouri.

Jordan Ta’amu

Ta’amu is better than most Alabama football fans realize. After Shea Patterson was injured last season, he threw for 11 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He has an accurate quick release that will help him against the Tide’s pass rushing pressure. He also has perhaps the best group of wide receivers in the SEC. The inexperienced Crimson Tide secondary will be somewhat vulnerable early in the season.

As far as complete supporting cast, Ole Miss still has to prove it can stop the run.

Nick Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald can have a special year in the new Joe Moorhead offense. He poses the greatest run-pass threat if he has fully recovered from last season’s ankle injury. His touchdown to interception has not been stellar. If Moorhead solves that problem, Fitzgerald will be a problem for any defense.

He will be helped by his supporting cast. The Bulldogs’ defensive front will be tough. Aeris Williams is one of the top running backs in the conference.

Jarrett Stidham

Stidham is not much of a dual-threat QB though he hurt the Tide with his feet last season. What he does very well is throw the deep ball. Assuming all the injured Auburn wideouts are fully healthy before the Iron Bowl, the Tigers will have a potent passing attack. Replacing Kerryon Johnson will be tough for the Tigers. For Stidham’s long bombs to hit frequently, Auburn needs a strong running game.

The strong Auburn defense will provide plenty of support on the other side of the ball.

Drew Lock

If Lock played for a championship contender he could be a Heisman threat. He has a big arm and even better accuracy than Stidham on deep balls. He led the nation and set an SEC record with 44 touchdown tosses last season. In the SEC East, the Jakes are very good, Fromm and Bentley. Lock is even better. The Crimson Tide will need consistent QB pressure against Lock or he will make big plays against the secondary.

In terms of supporting cast, Missouri returns its entire starting offensive line.

The Wildcard

And then there is LSU that may or may not have solved its QB problem with graduate transfer, Joe Burrow. Burrow was a 4-Star recruit who was at Ohio State for three seasons. He saw limited action, playing in only 10 games and throwing just 39 passes. He has a strong arm and good enough feet to be mobile for his size. Who knows?

LSU will be helped by a strong defense, including probably the best secondary in the conference for 2018.

Next: 25 Greatest Games in Saban Era

So what team poses the greatest 2018, regular season threat? We say it is Alabama football and the risk of it beating itself in some unpredictable manner.