Like a fine wine, it seems Nick Saban just gets better with age.
The 66-year-old head coach is coming off his sixth national championship run and shows no sign of slowing down with an Alabama roster that is as talented as any in the country.
That makes this edition of the game-by-game prediction series a bit easier than most others. There are more than a handful of games on the Crimson Tide schedule that deserve the "almost sure win" treatment when assessing the head-to-head matchup.
Though Saban has a reputation for taking on a tough non-conference opponent to kick off a season (with recent games against USC and Florida State as examples), this schedule lacks that early September nail-biter. Sure, the Crimson Tide opens in Orlando, Florida, against Bobby Petrino's Louisville squad, but Alabama is a near four-touchdown favorite against the Lamar Jackson-less Cardinals.
Arkansas State? Louisiana? The Citadel? These non-conference games are no challenge.
So we'll have to look toward the SEC slate for a potential loss for the Crimson Tide. Auburn, which beat Alabama last season, and Mississippi State are considered by many to be the top contenders to deny the Crimson Tide a SEC West title. Alabama gets both of those teams at home this season.
The cross-division challenge includes a trip to Tennessee and a home game against Missouri. Neither of those appear to be a serious threat to a perfect season.
Normally, the Nov. 3 trip to Baton Rouge to take on LSU would be circled in red ink as a potential loss. But the Tigers aren't what they used to be five or 10 years ago, and the Crimson Tide has the benefit of a bye week prior to the road trip to make sure they're extra rested and prepared for Ed Orgeron's group.
Athlon asked a few editors and college football contributors to share their realistic win/loss projection for Alabama in 2018.
Alabama Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2018
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Alabama is the preseason favorite to win it all in 2018, and it’s hard to find a loss on a very favorable regular-season schedule. Assuming Tua Tagovailoa (above, right) edges Jalen Hurts for the starting job, the 2018 version of the Crimson Tide’s passing game could be the best under Nick Saban’s watch. As usual, Alabama is loaded in the backfield and has one of the SEC’s top offensive lines. There are a few concerns to monitor on defense throughout the 2018 season. Who steps up to replace Da’Ron Payne in the middle of the line? Also, can the Crimson Tide avoid any additional injuries to a linebacker corps that’s thin on proven depth. And of course, there’s a rebuilt secondary in place. While those concerns on defense are notable, it won’t catch up to Alabama in the regular season. With 12 games to sort out the defense before facing Georgia in the SEC Championship or the CFB Playoff in late December, that’s plenty of time for Saban to find the right answers on this side of the ball.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Yes, it’s boring to pick Alabama to go undefeated. And yes, I realize that the Tide have only navigated the regular season without a loss twice in the Nick Saban era. But this Alabama team is very, very, very good. And while it’s easy to say, in late August, that this team will lose a game at some point, identifying that game, before the season starts, is the difficult part. My ranking of Alabama’s schedule, starting the most difficult game: at LSU, Auburn, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, vs. Louisville, at Tennessee, at Ole Miss, at Arkansas, Missouri, Arkansas State, Louisiana, The Citadel.
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
Tua or Jalen? Jalen or Tua? Yes the quarterback position is the focus for everybody in Tuscaloosa but I'm much more interested in how quickly Nick Saban can turn over his entire secondary from a year ago. While there are some tricky early tests in that respect, the schedule is still manageable enough to where the team might only play two top 25 teams all season (and both at home) so the Tide certainly catch a bit of a break — not that they needed it. This will once again be a playoff-bound squad that should be in the thick of the national title chase to make it two in a row.
Nick Cole (@NickColeSports)
Alabama may have to replace some important pieces on the defensive side of the ball, but the Crimson Tide offense may be as prepared as ever to take off in 2018. Throw in what should be a relatively easy-to-handle non-conference slate, and the recipe is there for another run at a national title for Nick Saban. You could pick the Crimson Tide to lose a game on the 2018 schedule (much like they did in 2017), but it'll require an upset. Alabama should be favored in all 12 games, and rightfully so.