Reigning national champions Alabama football appears to have an accessible path to another College Football Playoff Championship. Two tough games could derail its chances.
Alabama football enters the season as the titans of the industry and is a heavy favorite to win another national title.
The Crimson Tide’s first game against the Louisville Cardinal has it as a 31 point favorite. Alabama has been favorites in 111 of its last 112 games. The only exception was 2015 the Tide faced Georgia in Athens, two weeks after losing to Ole Miss. A quick glance at the Crimson Tide’s schedule makes it easy to dismiss its opponents.
However, the last time the Crimson Tide was undefeated was in 2009. Every year, there is one opponent that plays out of its mind against the Tide.
Terrance “Mount” Cody had to block a game-winning field goal against Lane Kiffin and the Tennessee Volunteers to keep Alabama’s national title hopes alive with a 12-10 win in 2009. The Volunteers entered the game with a 3-3 record.
In 2015, Alabama lost to Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa after turning the ball over five times which is uncharacteristic of a Nick Saban coached team. Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly torched Alabama for 341 yards in their 43-37 win.
Last year, Alabama held onto the number one ranking all year until it arrived in Jordan Hare Stadium to battle against the red-hot, 8-3 Auburn Tigers. The Tide was put out of its misery early. The loss was the worst performance for an Alabama team under Saban.
Whenever Alabama steps foot on the field, 90 percent of the battle is won. The assembled roster, top to bottom is bar none the best in college football. The other 10 percent comes with the actual gameplay.
Nevertheless, two games on the Tide’s schedule can turn the 2018 season around rather swiftly.
The Crimson Tide visits Death Valley this season to face the purple and gold Tigers.
In 2010, the Crimson Tide lost 21-24 after giving up 433 yards of total offense.
Fast forward to 2012, Alabama needed a 28-yard screen pass touchdown from A.J. McCarron to T.J. Yeldon in the last minute to get out of Death Valley alive.
2014 saw Blake Sims deliver a six-yard game-winning pass to DeAndrew White to win 20-13 in overtime.
Jalen Hurts scampered 21 yards into the end zone for the only touchdown of the game in 2016 as the Tide won 10-0.
Since Les Miles’ dismissal in 2016, Ed Orgeron has compiled a 15-6 record. Just not good enough for a head coach in the SEC West, fully loaded with talent and making $3.5 million a year. His first full season was the exact definition of a roller coaster losing to Troy and beating Mississippi State.
Ohio State grad transfer, six-foot-four quarterback Joe Burrow joins the arms race for the Tigers’ starting quarterback. Sophomore Myles Brennan, junior Justin McMillan, and redshirt freshman Lowell Narcisse are vying for the starting job as well.
Washington Redskins’ second-round pick Derrius Guice’s departure leaves a hole in the backfield. LSU returns one of the better offensive lines in the conference.
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Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda earned his $1.3 million last season leading the Tigers to the 12th ranked defense in the nation. He did such a great job that he received a raise to $2.5 million a year, making him the game’s highest-paid coordinator.
LSU returns five starters on defense. Linebacker Devin White will spearhead the charge along with cornerback Greedy Williams.
Whether the Tigers are in or out of the Top 25, they will be a tough out in Baton Rouge.
Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton staged a remarkable comeback in Tuscaloosa beating the Tide 28-27 in 2010. This victory was the last time the Tigers have won in Bryant Denny Stadium.
Head coach Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers will enter the season ranked in the top 10. Expect Auburn to play lights out after their embarrassing loss to UCF in the Peach Bowl to end the season.
Jarrett Stidham returns after throwing for 3,158 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. He has received some praise as the best quarterback in college football. Against the Tide, Stidham had a 75% completion rate and threw for 237 yards. He has a solid group of receivers to throw to with Ryan Davis, Nate Craig Myers, and Darius Slayton.
Last season, the defense held the Tide to 314 yards of offense during its 26-14 victory. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele returns a formidable defensive line, linebacker Deshaun Davis and a pair of sharp corners.
The key to the game is watching Auburn’s performance against Georgia two weeks before facing Alabama. Every year, the result is either two wins or two losses. The last time they split the two games was 2007 as they lost to Georgia but beat the Tide.
Alabama football head coach Nick Saban has a tough task on keeping the team from the challenge of complacency. As always, a flat Tide that makes too many mistakes can also beat itself.