Crimson Tide kick off 2020 campaign in Columbia against rebuilding Tigers
I don't think anyone knows where and how this 2020 college football season will go. But I do think we all know where this wild and unpredictable season will probably end for the Alabama Crimson Tide if the season is played uninterrupted. If not in the College Football Playoff, more than likely they will at least be a part of the SEC Championship Game, right? At least the odds say so.
Missouri enters the 2020 season with a new head coach in Eli Drinkwitz, who pulled off an impressive 13-win season at Appalachian State last season. The problem is that 12 Tigers had originally been determined to be unavailable for the game due to COVID-19, though five have been re-given the okay to play. Still, that is obviously a tough way to face down a national title contender in your first game leading your new team.
Alabama at Missouri
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Alabama -27
When Alabama Has the Ball
Jonesing for points. The injury to Tua Tagovailoa near the end of last season was the end of an era on the Capstone. But it also gave Mac Jones his time to shine. And though he didn't light up the world, he was a very steady, even throwing for 327 yards and three TDs in the 35-16 win over Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. But now it's certainly the redshirt junior's team and his job to lose. Should Jones not live up to the high expectations look for freshman phenom Bryce Young to take over.
The NFLers who didn't go to the NFL. Keep an eye on three key offensive players on the Crimson Tide as running back Najee Harris, offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, and wide receiver DeVonta Smith all decided to skip the NFL draft and make their way back to Tuscaloosa to try to win another national title in their senior campaigns. These three players will be huge difference-makers around Jones and should make a few All-American teams. This is one of those games where they can rack up some big-time stats too.
Show effort, excitement. Missouri finished 6-6 last season but had some bright spots defensively, finishing sixth nationally in pass defense and third nationally in non-offensive TDs and will feature All-American LB Nick Bolton. Seven defensive starters return, giving the Tigers some hope. Nobody expects them to stop Alabama's offense or pitch shutouts each week, but as long as the defense shows enthusiasm, plays with purpose, and keeps Mizzou in the game, it will signal promising prospects for this season.
When Missouri Has the Ball
The quarterback takes center stage. Drinkwitz has kept pretty tight-lipped about who his starting QB will be, but most likely TCU transfer Shawn Robinson will be the man. A dual-threat signal-caller who has played in big games against the likes of Ohio State, Texas, and Oklahoma, it will be interesting to see how the rust shakes off for the strong-armed, quick-footed field general. Drinkwitz has worked with QBs of many different styles over the years, so this won't be a tough transition, he'll fit the offense to Robinson's skills. Now the fact that game one is against Alabama? Well, that's a tough way to get your feet wet.
Line on line. The Tiger offensive line got beaten up as last season progressed and then they lost a trio of three-year starters in the offseason. So even though experience isn't their forte, size is. The top eight returnees on the two-deep check in an average of 6-foot-6 and 321 pounds. They'll have their hands full with that quick, athletic Crimson Tide defense, of course. Running backs Larry Rountree III and Tyler Badie make for a solid one-two punch and if they are given room to roam, that could be a game-changer for this Tiger offense.
Moses returns. Another Tide star who could have gone the pro route in the offseason is linebacker Dylan Moses. His 2019 season was cut short from the get-go with a preseason knee injury. His return, along with a pair of defensive linemen in LaBryan Ray and DJ Dale, means the Tide get back three huge parts of their stops unit off the injured list. Their title hopes will certainly rely on players staying out of the M.A.S.H. unit, which hindered their hopes last season against LSU and Auburn.
Originally the Tigers were slated to open the season with Central Arkansas, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and Eastern Michigan. Man alive! That sounds like a G-rated movie now. How badly do you think Eli Drinkwitz and his staff would like to have that back? Not to mention a full spring session as well.
Mizzou's defense could keep the Tigers close in this one. I mean, for a half or so. But I can also see the Tide keep on rolling with the four- and five-star talents that will replace some of the lost starters.
Prediction: Alabama 31, Missouri 13
Podcast: The SEC is Back Too & Week 4 Preview
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.