Alabama Season Win Total Prediction
The class of the college football world opens the 2016 season with a marquee nonconference test vs. USC. Will it be the first step in a march toward another national title for Alabama?
As excited as most Crimson Tide fans are for Saturday’s showdown in Arlington, they’re also accustomed to taking the long view by this point. Yet again, Nick Saban’s squad is a heavy favorite to qualify for the College Football Playoff – and possibly win the whole thing. For the record, handicappers at online sports book Bovada.lv project the program for 9.5 victories.
Alabama will have to overcome some heavy personnel losses on offense in order to get back to the biggest stage. Heisman Trophy-winning running back Derrick Henry, quarterback Jake Coker and Rimington Trophy-winning center Ryan Kelly are all gone, putting the burden on coordinator Lane Kiffin to figure out what suits his new toys best. This weekend’s challenge should serve that purpose quite well, actually, considering the Trojans’ thin defensive line and Kiffin’s desire to feature Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris. Youngsters like B.J. Emmons, Xavian Marks and Ronnie Clark could factor into the mix down line, but for now, look for that tandem to perform the heavy lifting.
With the exception of A.J. McCarron’s reign, the signal-caller position has almost become a bit of an afterthought in Tuscaloosa. At the start of this campaign, the same logic basically applies. Cooper Bateman and Blake Barnett remain engaged in a two-way race. Regardless of the eventual winner, the O-line should do a bang-up job of keeping that individual upright. Left tackles don’t come more gifted than Cam Robinson, and guard Ross Pierschbacher returns after starting all 15 games as a freshman last year. The lone question obviously pertains to center, J.C. Hassenauer figures to replace Kelly. All the way around, however, this unit should mirror the 2015 crew that allowed 1.73 sacks per contest.
Of course, Alabama’s foremost strengths can be found on the other side of the ball. Up front, Da’Shanw Hand, Da’Ron Payne, Dalvin Tomlinson and Johnathan Allen represent the next crop of standouts. They’ll miss A’Shawn Robinson and D.J. Pettway, among others, but Saban’s got himself yet another nucleus of upstarts to build around.
In terms of the linebacking corps, the adjustments could take a bit longer. Reggie Ragland and two other seniors moved on, so Tim Williams and Rashaan Evans are in line for huge promotions. Reuben Foster, though, arguably assumes the most important role of all in the patented 3-4. Ryan Anderson seems poised to make blowing up the backfield a regular part of his repertoire, too.
Save for the departed Cyrus Jones, the secondary possibly retains the greatest amount of talent on D. Expect new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt on lean on All-America safety Eddie Jackson as a captain of sorts. Between the sheer amount of experience on staff and the undeniable talent on the field, however, don’t look for a big drop-off from last year’s championship collection. The Crimson Tide will be right back in the thick of the chase and, until further notice, this group sits head and shoulders above the rest of the SEC.
TUESDAY COLLEGE FOOTBALL FREE PICK: ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE OVER 9.5 WINS (-225)