Alabama enters the college football playoff as the No. 1 overall seed and the odds-on favorite to win the 2014-15 national championship. The Crimson Tide has won two out of the last three titles and enters the playoff with an eight-game winning streak, including a 42-13 win over Missouri in the SEC Championship and a 55-44 victory over Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
The Crimson Tide’s formula for success hasn’t changed. Nick Saban’s team leans on a strong defense to win games, but the offense also proved capable of carrying this team, as the rushing attack is solid with backs T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry, while receiver Amari Cooper is the best in college football. Blake Sims has developed into a solid starter and potential All-SEC quarterback under coordinator Lane Kiffin.
5 Reasons Why Alabama Will Win the CFB Playoff
1. Best Roster and Coach in College Football
Recruiting rankings aren’t necessary 100 percent accurate, but there’s some truth in the evaluations. Alabama has landed the No. 1 class in four consecutive seasons and ranked No. 5 in 2010. There’s talent and depth at every position, and the Crimson Tide has the best overall collection of players in college football this year. In addition to the depth on the roster, Nick Saban is the best coach in the nation. Saban won three BCS Championships at Alabama and claimed the 2003 title at LSU. The X’s and O’s matter, but the Crimson Tide has the best roster and coach in the nation. And considering this program’s success in the BCS era, it’s hard to pick against Alabama in the four-team playoff.
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2. Blake Sims
Alabama went into fall camp with uncertainty at quarterback. Jacob Coker was expected to win the job, but Blake Sims edged the Florida State transfer for the starting job and has turned in a solid all-around year. Sims finished with 3,250 yards and 26 scores and completed 64.8 percent of his passes. He also rushed for 321 yards and six touchdowns. The senior had only 39 career pass attempts entering 2014, but Sims could be an All-SEC player, which comes as a surprise after the preseason debate under center. The senior tossed three picks against Auburn but rallied with a strong performance against Missouri (23 of 27 for 262 yards). Sims entered the year as a big question mark. However, after 13 games, it’s clear the senior is capable of making enough plays in the passing game and is no longer Alabama’s biggest concern.
3. Defense Wins Championships
If the old adage “defense wins championships” holds true in 2014, then Alabama is set with the best group in the four-team playoff. The Crimson Tide allow just 4.7 yards per play (tied for ninth in the nation) and limit opponents to 16.6 points per contest. The secondary has been prone to allow a few big plays, but the rush defense has been rock solid all year. Alabama ranks second nationally against the run by holding opponents to 88.7 yards per game and limiting rushers to 2.8 yards per carry. And the Crimson Tide has allowed just three rushing scores all year. With the concerns in the secondary, it’s important for Alabama to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Crimson Tide has 28 sacks in 13 games and ranked fourth in the SEC by recording 85 tackles for a loss. The stats backup what the depth chart shows: Alabama has the best defense in the playoff.
4. WR Amari Cooper is Unstoppable
Using the term unstoppable is a bit of a cliché, but receiver Amari Cooper capped an outstanding regular season with 12 catches for 83 yards against Missouri in the SEC Championship. Cooper always had elite talent and appeared poised for a monster sophomore season after catching 58 passes for 999 yards as a freshman in 2012. However, Cooper’s numbers dropped to 45 catches for 736 yards. New coordinator Lane Kiffin has made Cooper a priority in the offense, and the junior emerged as a Heisman candidate by finishing the year with 115 catches for 1,656 yards and 14 touchdowns. Cooper recorded three 200-yard games and caught a touchdown pass in six out of Alabama’s nine SEC matchups. The Crimson Tide has an elite defense and a good rushing attack, but no team had an answer for Cooper in 2014. That narrative should continue in the playoffs.
5. One-Two Punch of T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry
While Amari Cooper and Blake Sims’ emergence has allowed Alabama to open up the offense this season, the gameplan still revolves around establishing the run. The Crimson Tide average 209.5 yard per contest, with Yeldon and Henry forming one of the nation’s top tandems at running back. Yeldon was banged up at the end of the year but still finished with 932 yards and 10 scores. Henry is a bigger back and can pound away at defenses in the second half. The sophomore has 895 yards and 10 touchdowns on 159 attempts this year. Henry is coming off his best performance of the year by recording 141 yards and two scores against Missouri. Stopping Alabama’s rushing attack is easier said than done. Only one team held the Crimson Tide under 100 yards (Arkansas, 66 yards) and this offense rushed for 130 yards only three times in 2014. Defenses have to commit extra defenders into the box to slow down Yeldon and Henry, which opens up the play-action pass to Cooper. That’s quite a dilemma for any coordinator.