The simple answer to the question my editor posed as the headline to this story “Can Alabama Repeat as Champion?” is an obvious yes. Coach Nick Saban’s team lost a TON of talent off last year’s title team, but Saban simply reloads every year with more future NFL players. The Tide are favorites to win it all again on the college football odds.
Analysis NCCA 2021 | Alabama
Last year’s Bama team might have been Saban’s best as it finished 12-0 and won every game but one – 52-46 over Florida in the SEC title game – by double digits. The Tide easily handled Notre Dame 31-14 in the College Football Playoff semifinal and then Ohio State 52-24 in the title game. Alabama won the national for the sixth time in the last 12 years under Saban and it was career title No. 7 overall for Saban (one at LSU), breaking a tie with Alabama great Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most by a major college coach.
There’s no question that the 2020 Crimson Tide were the best offensively in school history with the likes of QB Mac Jones, running back Najee Harris and receivers Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner. All four of those guys were first-round picks in the 2021 NFL Draft as were cornerback Patrick Surtain and offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood. The six first-round picks tied draft record set by the University of Miami in 2004.
The six first-round picks moved Saban’s career total to 44 first-round picks, including 39 at Alabama. The six first-round selections surpass Saban’s previous best of four first round picks, which came in the 2011, 2012, 2017, 2018 and 2020 drafts. Saban passed Joe Paterno for the most first round draft picks from a single school with a total of 39 during his time in Tuscaloosa.
Bryce Young is expected to replace Jones as the starting QB. Young was a coveted five-star recruit for the Tide’s 2020 class and the No. 1 quarterback in that group. Some even projected he was going to win the starting job over Jones heading into last year. Young was 13-of-22 passing for 156 yards and a touchdown in limited action over nine games last season.
Young took over for a star quarterback in JT Daniels at Mater Dei High School in California. Three years later, Daniels believes Young will do just fine as he tries to replace Jones – Daniels is the starter at rival Georgia.
“He’s a stud,” said Daniels. “He’s a star player. When I had left Mater Dei and they got Bryce — I had known Bryce since I was an eighth-grader and he was a seventh-grader. I knew back then he was a special player.”
Young had a good spring camp and earned MVP honors during the annual A-Day scrimmage, completing 25 of 44 passes for 333 yards and a 59-yard touchdown to tight end Cameron Latu. Young already is a top Heisman candidate.
Brian Robinson will take over as the featured back for Harris. Robinson recorded 483 yards and six touchdowns on 91 carries with six receptions for 26 yards this season. John Metchie should be the primary wideout. He averaged 16.7 yards per catch to rank seventh in the SEC and totaled 916 yards and six touchdowns on 55 catches
Three Tide players have been named to the 2021 Walter Camp Preseason All-America Team. Offensive lineman Evan Neal earned first-team honors, joining Will Anderson Jr. who was named to the defensive first team as a linebacker. Josh Jobe was named second team as a defensive back.
Anderson started every game as a freshman in 2020, totaling 52 tackles, including 10.5 for loss (-52 yards) and seven sacks (-39 yards), to go with a forced fumble and team-high eight quarterback hurries. Jobe last year had 55 tackles, including 2.5 for loss (-9 yards) and two sacks (-9 yards), and added 11 pass breakups to go with two forced fumbles and one quarterback pressure.
Once again, Alabama is scheduled to be a betting favorite in every game, including -18 against a very good Miami (Fla.) team on Sept. 4 in Atlanta. The Tide’s only realistic chances of losing are Sept. 18 at Florida, Oct. 9 at Texas A&M and Nov. 27 at Auburn.Expert Prediction
- Tide finish 11-1 in regular season, return to SEC title game and College Football Playoff
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