Can Alabama Repeat Next Season?

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Can Alabama Repeat Next Season?
Mac Jones #10 of the Alabama Crimson Tide, Alex Leatherwood #70, and Landon Dickerson #69 on January 11, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images/AFP

Is it ever too early to start throwing out college football picks for next season? Especially when it’s regarding Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide who have dominated the scene and might be coming off their most impressive National Championship?

In some ways, it’s sad Alabama dwarfed the college gridiron scene in a 2020 season that will always be remembered for all the wrong things. Too many will dismiss what the Crimson Tide accomplished in their perfect 13-0 run, downplaying the dominance with a shrug about it happening during a pandemic that caused so many games to be canceled…and some teams not to take the field at all.

Computers can crunch all the numbers in the history of the game, experts can break down all of the film they want, even politicians and sociologists can chime in with their takes. There’s still nothing all of that data and those opinions can produce to change my mind that the 2020 Alabama Crimson Tide were the greatest college football team ever. At least in my 65 years on this planet, and quite frankly, I’m surprised the Crimson Tide aren’t bigger favorites to repeat at top betting sites.

DeVonta Smith #6 of the Alabama Crimson Tide on January 11, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

Relentless Offense Leads to 10-3 ATS Showing in 2020

Repeating as champions in any league is never easy, and Alabama really raised the bar for itself and every college football team in the future in winning the sixth title in Saban’s 12 seasons down in Tuscaloosa. The first thing we have to take into account is the Crimson Tide doesn’t have to approach their 2020 perfection to repeat as champs in 2021.

Alabama begins the quest for another crown as 3/1 chalk on the NCAA football futures, and is closely followed by Clemson (4/1). It’s a wider gap back to the next two teams, Ohio State and Oklahoma, each as +750 choices. Three of the next four teams on the list – Georgia 12/1, Texas A&M 18/1 and Florida 25/1 – also hail from the SEC, so it’s going to once again be tough on the Crimson Tide to just get out of their own conference.

Then again, it really wasn’t so tough this past season when Alabama breezed through the league unbeaten and won all but one of its SEC games by double digits. That lone single-digit victory came in the conference championship against Florida, and that really boiled down to having one slow third quarter in a 52-46 final.

Alabama Crimson Tide
Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Tom Pennington/Getty Images/AFP

Who Takes Over at OC for Saban?

The offense that was responsible for outscoring opponents by an average of more than four touchdowns a game is going to lose a ton of talent. Just how talented the group was can be illustrated by the simple fact that in any other season, Mac Jones would’ve won the Heisman Trophy. Instead, he lost out to teammate Devonta Smith.

We’re already hearing folks suggest the drop-off from Smith and Jones and tailback Najee Harris will be too much for Alabama. Of course, the same doubts were raised in the past when Tua Tagovailoa, Jerry Jeudy and Derrick Henry departed. The biggest hole for Saban to fill is on his own staff after offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian accepted the head coaching job at Texas. Candidates from within the program include Jeff Banks and Charles Huff.

While the offense is facing major subtractions, the defense should return the bulk of its starters, depending on who might opt to leave early. A linebacking corps led by Dylan Moses and a DB group topped by Malachi Moore should relieve some pressure on the offense in 2021.

Devonta Smith is one of Alabama's multiple weapons
Wide receiver DeVonta Smith #6 of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images/AFP

SEC Championship Rematch at Florida on ’21 Slate

All schedules have to be approached with at least a little restraint right now for obvious reasons. In fact, Alabama’s official website only lists one game for 2021, that being a September 4 collision with the Miami Hurricanes in Atlanta. The other three non-conference matchups are to be played in Tuscaloosa and tentatively set for September 25 (Southern Miss), November 13 (New Mexico St.), and November 20 (Mercer).

We can pencil in a November 6 home game against LSU, and November 27 at Auburn for the Iron Bowl. The other three SEC home matchups are against Arkansas, Tennessee, and Ole Miss. The three remaining road games are at Florida, Texas A&M, and Mississippi State. The rematch with the Gators in Gainesville and a trip to Kyle Field to play the Aggies are the big ones.

There’s no reason to think the NCAA football odds won’t favor the Crimson Tide in all of those contests. And there’s also no reason to think Alabama can’t win them all. No, the Tide isn’t going to roll along as dominantly as this past season, but rolling to another National Championship is certainly a strong possibility.