Well, it finally happened. The sun did not come up this morning. The Earth is off its axis. Everything looks like the movie 2012. Life as we know it will never be the same.
Why? No, not COVID-19, but because Alabama did NOT make the College Football Playoff last season. And because of that, nothing will ever be the same. At least if you're a Crimson Tide fan, that is what they must have thought after the Tide didn't play a meaningful postseason game for the first time in seemingly a generation.
See, Bama kind of had a Tiger problem. Last November, the Crimson Tide defense allowed 46 points to LSU and 48 points to Auburn and lost both of those games to get eliminated from the SEC title game, which ultimately subjected them to the indignity of having to merely play in a New Year's Day bowl instead. Ugh.
Now you've done it, Tigers, now you've made Nick Saban mad. Big mistake. The Tide have only lost multiple games in consecutive seasons once over the last 12 years, in 2013 and '14. And it is unlikely that it will happen in this bizarre new season for the fall of 2020. According to Vegas Insider, the Tide has returned to its post as the favorite to win the SEC, pulling in 7-to-5 odds of taking the crown. The schedule certainly helps in that department as well.
In this newfangled college football world where there will be SEC vs. SEC games only, the Tide will now jettison games against the likes of USC, Georgia State, Kent State, and Tennessee-Martin and will add a trip to Missouri and a home date vs. Kentucky. Yes, they lucked out in their additional games assignments.
The best news is that the Red Elephants will open with three very winnable games to get Mac Jones and the offense to jell and for that defense to get into more of a lockdown mode than it was in last year (I'm looking your direction, defensive backfield). Also, most of the toughest games will be played at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The biggest tests will obviously be the home game in Week 4 vs. Georgia and the road game at LSU, the defending national champions. In the preseason AP poll, the Bulldogs sit at No. 4, one spot behind the Tide, and the Tigers come in at No. 6.
The Crimson Tide also will play host to No. 11 Auburn and No. 13 Texas A&M, while traveling to play at No. 25 Tennessee.
So what should we expect from a seemingly extra-motivated Alabama team? Athlon Sports asked a couple of its editors and a college football contributor for their realistic win-loss projection for the Crimson Tide in 2020.
Alabama Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2020
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Nick Saban’s program missed the CFB Playoff for the first time since its inception in 2014. With that in mind, expect to see a motivated Alabama team in 2020. The Crimson Tide should be the best all-around team in the SEC this fall, combining an improved defense with one of the best offenses in the nation. New quarterback Mac Jones will have to hold off touted freshman Bryce Young, but the junior showed he was capable of directing this offense in games against Auburn and Michigan last fall. Additionally, with weapons like Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith on the outside, along with the nation’s best offensive line and running back Najee Haris in place, Jones won’t have to win games on his own. Alabama’s defense has room to improve back to its usual dominant level. Some concerns remain with a revamped secondary and off the edge with pass rushers, but the return of linebacker Dylan Moses should bolster the front seven and cut down on some of the communication issues this unit experienced in 2019. The home matchup against Georgia won’t be easy, and the trip to Death Valley to play LSU is tough. However, the Crimson Tide is the best team in the SEC and should return to the CFB Playoff after a one-year blip.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
When you win 11 games, with the two losses coming by a total of eight points to the eventual national champion and another top-15 team, and people are wondering what's wrong with your program, this gives you an idea of how high Nick Saban has set the bar at Alabama. Yes, a bunch of guys are gone and there are question marks at quarterback and on defense. But this is Alabama, and the Crimson Tide are arguably more motivated than they have been in a while. It also doesn't hurt that games against Georgia, Auburn, and Texas A&M are in Tuscaloosa, and don't worry about them being ready for that trip to Baton Rouge. Order will be restored in the SEC West this fall, and Alabama will be back in the College Football Playoff.
Eric Sorenson (@Stitch_Head)
Last year, the Tide entered as a national title favorite but then had some bad luck (Tua's injury), bad lapses (the defense), and just plain bad karma (Saban has won enough titles, right?). But this is still a program that is bursting with talent and a next-man-up mentality — or maybe the next five-star-recruit-up mentality — that consistently helps it turn good seasons into title-contending seasons. As we go into this season of huge unknowns, the Tide is favored to win all 10 of their games. But you know how the rigors of the SEC are. There is always a game (or two) where the best teams just don't play their best and are vulnerable. Although the defense could be better this year, especially with the return of LB Dylan Moses and DT LaBryan Ray, I'm still giving that side of the ball a "wait and see" approach. So I'll say 9-1.