The 2021 college football season has already made for a wild ride for the Alabama Crimson Tide. The defending national champs kicked off their campaign as the undisputed No. 1 team in the land. They proceeded to back that up with a 44-13 trouncing of then-No. 14 Miami in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. But it didn't take long for adversity to strike in the form of a close call against Florida. Three weeks later came the loss to Texas A&M, snapping Alabama's 19-game winning streak. That was followed by three more close calls against LSU, Arkansas, and arch-nemesis Auburn down the stretch. Meanwhile, the spotlight had shifted to a dominant Georgia squad. The Bulldogs appeared to be unbeatable entering last Saturday's SEC Championship Game, riding the momentum of a 16-game winning streak and outscoring their regular-season opponents by an average margin of 40.6 to 6.9.
The SEC title game also marked the first time in 92 games that the Crimson Tide entered a contest as the underdog. More importantly, Alabama found itself on the outside looking in for a spot in the College Football Playoff, and only a win over the seemingly untouchable Bulldogs could guarantee that fate. The Crimson Tide not only got that unlikely victory, but they also did so in fairly dominant fashion, knocking off the Dawgs 41-24 to secure yet another SEC title and a return to the playoff. And just as the season began, Alabama is once again considered the top team in the land. But do the Crimson Tide have what it takes to close out the 2021 campaign on a high note and successfully defend their national championship in Indianapolis on Jan. 10?
Absolutely, and here are five reasons why…
5 Reasons Why Alabama Will Win the College Football Playoff
Experience matters and no team in this year's final four has more of it when it comes to the College Football Playoff than Alabama. In fact, Georgia is the only other team in this year's CFP that has any experience in what can be a very daunting process for teams that are new to the experience. And the Bulldogs made the cut just once in 2017, eventually falling short against Alabama in the national championship game. While Kirby Smart may have some insight to pass along to his current players on what to expect, a very small number of them have any first-hand experience. Conversely, Alabama's players are well-versed in this experience after making appearances in two of the last three playoffs. Meanwhile, Nick Saban has a wealth of playoff experience, having coached in all but one of the seven previous editions. So, while all the other teams head into the 2021 CFP wide-eyed and full of uncertainty, the Crimson Tide will feel right at home.
2. Nick Saban
There is no better motivator and leader of young men than the greatest college football coach of our time and arguably the greatest head coach of all time. In his 15 years at Alabama alone, Nick Saban has compiled a sparkling 182-24 record. He's won six national championships and eight SEC titles while being named National Coach of the Year on at least five occasions. Saban also sports an impeccable 14-5 record in the postseason during his time in Tuscaloosa, including eight wins against just three losses in the College Football Playoff. Kirby Smart, Jim Harbaugh, and Luke Fickell are great coaches in their own right, but they all pale in comparison to Saban at this point in time, particularly when championship trophies are on the line.
3. Bryce Young
Saban also is an outstanding X's and O's guy. But as the old saying goes — it's not just the X's and O's, it's the Jimmys and Joes that make the difference. And the Crimson Tide feature more than their fair share of elite Jimmys and Joes. Chief among them is Young. There isn't a more impactful position in football than quarterback, and Alabama enters the College Football Playoff with the best signal-caller in the nation, let alone the CFP. In fact, by the time the playoff rolls around, Young will very likely have the Heisman Trophy in his possession (among several other prestigious awards). For the season, he has completed 68 percent of his passes for 4,332 yards with 43 touchdowns against just four interceptions, adding three scores on the ground. And as we witnessed last Saturday, he has no problem rising to the occasion on a championship stage. Young torched Georgia's "historically great" defense to the tune of 421 yards and four touchdowns (one rushing) to earn SEC Championship Game MVP honors. You can probably expect more of the same in the playoff. And, while Young won't have John Metchie III, who tore his ACL in the SEC title game, to throw to he still has Jameson Williams. The speedy pass-catcher has accounted for 1,445 yards and 15 touchdowns on 68 receptions this season, averaging a ridiculous 21.3 yards per catch. Williams also has two kick returns for touchdowns and absolutely dominated Georgia's elite secondary in Atlanta — hauling in seven catches for 184 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
4. Will Anderson Jr.
In addition to having some of the top offensive weapons in this year's College Football Playoff, the Crimson Tide also feature a star-studded cast on the defensive side of the football. But none are more impressive than Anderson. The Bednarik Award front-runner is quite literally a one-man wrecking crew at linebacker/edge rusher. For the season, Anderson has racked up 91 tackles and an FBS-best 15.5 sacks. He also has 31.5 tackles for a loss — the most since 2011 and 9.5 more than Utah's Devin Lloyd, who ranks second nationally in that category. There may be no bigger impact player in the CFP than Anderson, especially when it comes to defense. His presence alone instills fear into the hearts of opposing quarterbacks.
5. The competition
Alabama will kick off its College Football Playoff journey on New Year's Eve in the Cotton Bowl against No. 4 seed Cincinnati. The Bearcats have enjoyed a remarkable season as the only undefeated team in this year's CFP. That said, they have faced only one team (Notre Dame) all season ranked in the FPI top 40, and their strength of schedule leaves plenty to be desired (ranked 87th in the FBS). They also rarely dominated the lackluster competition in the American Athletic Conference. And from a talent and depth standpoint, the Bearcats will be in way over their heads against the Crimson Tide, which is why Cincinnati is currently sitting as a two-touchdown underdog.
If successful against Cincinnati, which is highly probable, Alabama will then face the winner of Georgia and Michigan for all the marbles in the national championship game. We have already seen how the Crimson Tide stacks up against the Bulldogs. And if by some chance Michigan is able to get past the Dawgs in the Orange Bowl, Alabama matches up very well against the Wolverines as well. Michigan is strong defensively, but tempering the explosive Tide offense will be a very tall order. And the Wolverines are largely one-dimensional on offense, relying heavily on their run game. Guess which team ranks second in the nation in terms of yards per carry allowed? If you guessed Alabama, you would be correct. All in all, Alabama is the most complete team in this year's CFP, and that will pay dividends in the form of the Crimson Tide's second national title in as many years.
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— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.