I guess it’s easy to see that the 2019 season was indeed an aberration in college football. If you recall, that was the year that Alabama actually lost two conference games and did not play in the College Football Playoff for the first time in its existence. Gasp! But worry not Tide fans, ole Saint Nick got his fighting Sabans back on their horse and making amends by going a perfect 13-0 last year and winning yet another national title.
Thirteen games, 13 wins. And the best part was that the closest game they played was a 15-point decision (vs. Ole Miss by a 63-48 score). Their average score for the 13 games was 49-19. While last year’s regular-season slate did not contain any non-conference games, this year the Tide will start the season with Miami, Mercer and Southern Miss in their first four games. They’ll also have a week off in the second week of November when they host New Mexico State.
Unlike last year, the script will be flipped when it comes to personnel. Alabama will have an inexperienced offense (three returning starters), so the hyper-experienced defense (eight returning starters) will have to be the leaning post, especially since the Tide will play four of their first seven games away from home against tough teams like Miami, Florida, Texas A&M and Mississippi State. But this defense will be out-STAND-ing to say the least, probably having the top linebacking corps and defensive backfield in the country. Oh, and the D-line will be really solid as well. That’s why late-season games with LSU and Auburn don’t seem so daunting either.
So will Alabama run the table once again this season? Here's how a couple of Athlon Sports editors and a college football contributor see the Tide's 2021 slate playing out.
Alabama Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2021
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Despite having to replace a handful of key players, along with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian from a team that went 13-0 and won the national title in convincing fashion, it’s hard to pick against Alabama at the top of college football once again. New play-caller Bill O’Brien inherits a reloaded offense behind quarterback Bryce Young and a talented (but young) receiving corps. Matching last year’s 48.5 points a game might be too tall of a task for this group, but Young is primed for a breakout year and should pick up where Mac Jones left off under center. Alabama’s defense led the SEC in fewest points allowed (19.4) and could be even better this fall. The linebacker unit is the best in college football, while there’s depth up front and in the secondary to overcome a couple of personnel losses. Road trips to Florida and Texas A&M are tough, but the Crimson Tide should be 12-0 headed into the SEC Championship Game.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
Alabama returns just three starters on offense, will have a new offensive coordinator, and must replace a total of 10 NFL draft picks, six of them first-rounders, and… I don't think it will matter one bit. No one reloads quite like the Crimson Tide and I think it's safe to say that Nick Saban knows what he's doing. Not many other programs can lose the amount of talent that Bama did this offseason and still boast the top roster in the nation. Bryce Young may be a bit of an unknown but that doesn't mean he won't win the Heisman Trophy and the new OC is a guy (Bill O'Brien) with a proven track record in both college and the NFL. There are some tough contests ahead for the Tide, but barring a major injury or something unexpected, I just don't see why Saban and company won't keep rolling.
Eric Sorenson (@Stitch_Head)
Of the 14 teams currently in the SEC (keep in mind, that could change by noon tomorrow), Alabama football is 13th in returning experience this year. But with the number of four- and five-star blue-chip prospects waiting in the wings, that statistic comes across as relevant as time of possession in a football game. It’s all about context. For instance, the three expected new offensive line starters were ranked Nos. 40, 41 and 21 overall in their respective recruiting classes. Any other program that would lose three of the top six Heisman Trophy finalists would be facing a heavy rebuilding job. In Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide just shrug their shoulders and get back to what they do best; win more rings. By the way, the Red Elephants have now appeared in every AP poll since 2008 for a total of 213 consecutive weeks and have also been favored in their last 80 games dating back to October 2015. I can’t imagine either of these streaks will be in any kind of jeopardy in 2021, unless something VERY unexpected takes place. So it looks like we’ll all have to deal with Alabama being at the top of the college football mountain again. And yeah, I know, this is getting redundant.