There was a small but detectable amount of nervousness and unrest in Tuscaloosa heading into last season. The Tide had failed to win a national championship in each of the last two years, something that Bama fans were not accustomed to. It started to look bleak after a loss at home to Ole Miss (during which a number of fans were remarkably seen heading for the exits before the clock hit 0:00). But they need not have worried as that was the only loss the Tide took all year. They won the SEC West, they won the SEC Championship Game, they cruised to victory in the Cotton Bowl and then beat Clemson in one of the most thrilling national championship games ever. The goal for this year is the same as it is every year: win the national title.
The one thing that analysts and opposing fans point to as a potential downfall for Alabama is the constant question marks at the quarterback position. This year, Alabama will be starting their fourth different QB in four years, with Nick Saban expected to name Jalen Hurts as the new starting QB (not to be confused with Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd). Hurts, a freshman, is competing with Blake Barnett, another freshman, for the starting job. Whoever wins the job, neither QB will probably be asked to do too much other than handing the ball off to Bo Scarbrough, who is the latest in a long line of outstanding Alabama running backs. The concern offensively for the Tide is the lack of returning starters at the skill positons. But with the combination of Lane Kiffin’s offensive play-calling prowess and Nick Saban’s overall attention to detail, Bama fans should not expect too much of a drop in offensive production.
Like several other teams in the SEC, Alabama’s bread and butter is the defense. Last year the Tide gave up an average of 15 pointer per game and only gave up more than 20 on three occasions (43 against Ole Miss, 23 against Texas A&M, and 40 against Clemson). They posted two shutouts, including one in the Cotton Bowl against Michigan State. They do however lose their longtime defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, who took the head coaching job at Georgia. In a funny little twist of fate, Smart’s position is being filled by former Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. As good as each of those two guys is/was at running a defense, there are many that believe that the defense is run for the most part by Saban. Regardless of who is really running it, expect the Tide’s defense to continue to be stellar.
Like every season, Alabama’s expectation is to win a national championship. Anything short of that is considered a failure. But whereas some teams have to have a perfect record in order to make the College Football Playoff, Bama has the reputation and the kind of schedule to give them the benefit of the doubt should they lose early in the season. An overlooked part of Alabama’s greatness is their special teams play. Adam Griffith seemed to figure out how to start hitting field goal’s consistently and JK Scott is one of the top punters in the nation. It takes a brave man to bet against Alabama winning the national championship, and this year looks to be no different.
2016 Alabama Crimson Tide Schedule
9/3 – Alabama vs. USC – AT&T Stadium*
9/10 – Alabama vs. Western Kentucky – Bryant-Denny Stadium
9/17 – Alabama @ Ole Miss – Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
9/24 – Alabama vs. Kent State – Bryant-Denny Stadium
10/1 – Alabama vs. Kentucky – Bryant-Denny Stadium
10/8 – Alabama @ Arkansas – Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium
10/15 – Alabama @ Tennessee – Neyland Stadium
10/22 – Alabama vs. Texas A&M – Bryant-Denny Stadium
11/5 – Alabama @ LSU – Tiger Stadium
11/12 – Alabama vs. Mississippi State – Bryant-Denny Stadium
11/19 – Alabama vs. UT-Chattanooga – Bryant-Denny Stadium
11/26 – Alabama vs. Auburn – Bryant-Denny Stadium
*denotes game being played at neutral site