The nation is packed full of SEC fans; after all, the Southeastern Conference is the most powerful in the NCAA, and some even suggest that the SEC is more like a pro football division juxtaposed against the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC. While that might be a touch on the hyperbolic side, it’s still proven every year that the SEC has a wide assortment of top-25 teams, like Auburn, LSU, Georgia, Florida, A&M, Ole Miss and, of course, the Alabama Crimson Tide. It seems like every year since Nick Saban has been coaching the Tide, Alabama has at least threatened the top spot in the nation and made a lot of money for those to enjoy Alabama sports betting. Will things change this year, or has Alabama finally lost too much talent on the field? The answer may be bittersweet, depending on where your SEC loyalties stand. If you’re not a fan of Alabama, be prepared to punch the wall. If you’re a Tide faithful, get ready to cheer. At least on paper, the Tide are looking just as strong as ever.
Despite losing Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake, a few key offensive linemen, and about half a dozen defensive starters, the Tide actually scored an A+ this off-season by recruiting the strongest class in the nation. And if you want to get into specifics on why Alabama will have a strong shot at repeating as SEC Champions this year, then look no further than their corp of wide receivers. Although it’s questionable on whether or not the Tide will have a top QB prospect to put the ball out there, what’s not in question is that they may actually have the best WR corp in the entire nation. Let’s start with their returning superstar, Calvin Ridley. Ridley really came on strong near the end of last year, and many predict that he can actually be better than Amari Cooper, which is definitely high praise. Last season, although only coming on after the midway point, and not having a stable quarterback for the first five games, Ridley caught 89 balls for 1,045 yards and 7 touchdowns. He has speed like Randy Moss, can run a route like Tim Brown, and can catch the ball like Odell Beckham, Jr. That’s certainly a deadly combination.
On the other side of the field, you’re going to find ArDarius Stewart, the junior whose 63 catches and 700 yards came in handy last year as the Tide won the National Championship. Stewart was actually a quarterback before joining Alabama, and coupled with his 4.3-40 speed, these intangibles make Stewart a nightmare for defensive backs. Then you have Robert Foster and Cam Sims in the mix. Both freshmen last season who didn’t do much on the field, they’re a year older and a year better, and they’re ready to really get down and dirty with some big-air football. Throw OJ Howard into the mix, and any QB the Tide puts out will have a large security blanket at the tight end position.
Naysayers of the sporting world are shaking their head and are pointing out that the Tide lost defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to Georgia’s head coaching vacancy, along with too much talent to replace. However, the Tide has a relatively new-look defensive front seven this season. Their secondary is much improved, which means their pass defense is shored up. But Saban has done something out of character and has shifted from a run-stopping juggernaut to a pass-rushing squad of commandos. Only two teams the Tide faced last year had a top running back that threatened to do damage, Leonard Fournette in LSU, and Nick Chubb in Georgia. Both were stopped and Alabama won both games. However, in the game they lost against Ole Miss, and in the games they could have easily lost against Tennessee, Auburn and Arkansas, it was the passing attack of those offenses that stung Alabama the most. Even though they had the best pass rush and the most sacks, their secondary was weak. This season, they’re putting out a strong secondary and even more of a pass rush. So while Fournette might go over 100 yards, look for multiple interceptions and sack-fumbles.
Nothing is written in stone here, of course. By the time Alabama puts its product on the field, injuries, miscues and other mishaps might plague the Tide and they could end up losing three games. However, when looking on paper and at their spring training alone, the Tide seem like a team ready to roll yet again in 2016.