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Alabama Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2017

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There was a point late last season where it looked like the Alabama dynasty was well on its way to rolling on in Tuscaloosa and start to hear the increasing talk that the 2016 squad could perhaps be Nick Saban’s best coaching job ever. One simply had to watch the effortlessness that the defense suffocated opponents to understand that, note how many special teams touchdowns the Crimson Tide recorded or take in how explosive the offense became despite having an inexperienced freshman quarterback running the show.

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Things didn’t turn out the way Alabama expected in the end however, falling just a few seconds short of another national championship in a thrilling rematch with Clemson to end the year. Despite the pain of that loss down in Tampa, there are few doubts around college football that Saban and company won’t be right back there at the end once more given the talent on the roster and in the coaching booth. There are some new faces around the program and a host of new five-star prospects dotting the depth chart as the year begins again but the expectation remains the same for this team.

Will that mean the Tide begin and end their season with wins in Atlanta to reign supreme once again? Athlon Sports polled several writers to get their take on the Bama juggernaut and how the year will play out in the win/loss column.

Alabama Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2017

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Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)

Nick Saban enters his 11th season at Alabama with a host of problems only he could complain about – and solve. Lose a litany of high NFL draft picks in the front seven? That’s a yearly occurrence in Tuscaloosa and the head coach’s response is always the same: fill in the vacancies with former five-stars like Da’Shawn Hand or future first-rounders like Da’Ron Payne. Oh, and if there are any growing pains at all up front, perhaps the best secondary of Saban’s tenure is waiting in the wings to cover things up downfield.

Opposing coaches may not want Bama, as the signs in the crowd might say, but they sure would love to have Bama’s problems and easy solutions.

The same could be said of what will be an intriguing offense under new OC Brian Daboll and his background with the New England Patriots. Jalen Hurts should be an even better passer going into his sophomore season and the likely involvement of more tight ends should help the young dual threat under center become even more deadly when trying to beat teams with his arm. Then there’s the rest of the backfield, which is so loaded to the point where it might be the best collection of tailbacks the game has seen in quite some time. Expect wideout Calvin Ridley to be much more involved in big plays this year and any number of recent blue-chip additions at receiver should have plenty of time to emerge alongside him as the year goes on.

If there’s any hesitation though, it might be with the schedule that will see them open with the second- or third-best team in the country and end the regular season on the road for an Iron Bowl that should be the best in years. Still, it’s hard not to think the Tide will be favored by at least a touchdown in every game there’s enough around the program to run the table undefeated for another trip to the College Football Playoff without breaking a sweat. I’m not convinced this team will be as good as last year’s version but that might not matter by the time the calendar turns to 2018.

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Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

Nick Saban’s program is once again the preseason favorite to win the national title. Despite losing some key pieces on both sides of the ball, Alabama will simply reload with another round of four- and five-star recruits. The schedule does feature a couple of tough tests, especially with Florida State in the opener and a road date at Auburn to end the regular season. A loss in the regular season wouldn’t be a surprise, but I will take the Crimson Tide to finish with an unbeaten record.

After guiding the offense to an average of 38.8 points per game last fall, quarterback Jalen Hurts should be better in his second year as the starter. In addition to Hurts' development as a passer, it certainly doesn't hurt that he’s surrounded by a strong supporting cast under new play-caller Brian Daboll. The backfield is the best in the nation, receiver Calvin Ridley is poised for a huge season, and the line features three All-SEC candidates. The defense lost a couple of key pieces in the front seven but no drop off in production is expected.

Expect the Crimson Tide to play in the College Football Playoff for the fourth year in a row.

Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB)

Alabama is clearly the team to beat in the SEC with Nick Saban having built a roster that is always ready to reload on an annual basis. Even if the Crimson Tide take the loss in the mega season-opener against Florida State, Alabama won’t take long to work its way back to the top of the polls. After running through the SEC and avoiding upset bids by Texas A&M and Auburn, the Tide will be right back in the College Football Playoff for a fourth straight year to keep their perfect streak going.

Ryan Wright (@RyanWrightRNG)

At this point in Nick Saban’s career at Alabama, it is foolish to bet against him with nine consecutive double-digit win seasons posted. With an experienced roster that has back-to-back championship game berths under their belt and 12 returning starters, it’s hard to imagine the Crimson Tide being sidetracked from a third college football title game appearance. Adding to another playoff run is a fairly easy schedule with big games to start and end the season.

Perhaps the biggest question mark on the Alabama sidelines in 2017 is the influence of new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. The Tide are extremely deep at tailback, have an All-American candidate out wide in Calvin Ridley, three starting interior linemen, and have stability in the pocket with sophomore starter Jalen Hurts calling the plays. Daboll will be tested early against a very talented Florida State defense in Atlanta. Bama’s only other challenging game on the schedule comes against Auburn in the Iron Bowl. A tough three-game stretch against Arkansas, Tennessee, and LSU will be played in front of 101,000 faithful in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Rob McVey (@Rob_UTVOLS)

Regardless of turnover on the coaching staff or how many star players Nick Saban loses to the NFL, Alabama never seems to miss a beat. The 2017 season should be no exception. There are a couple of potential question marks that need to be addressed. And a difficult schedule that opens with Florida State in Atlanta and concludes on the road at Auburn will certainly put the Crimson Tide to the test, leaving the door cracked for a potential slip up at some point this season. However, it would come as a pretty big surprise if Alabama doesn’t run the table and return to championship form in 2017. There is just far too much talent on both sides of the football for that not to happen.