2016 Alabama Crimson Tide Football Preview

Team Info
Alabama Crimson Tide
Head Coach: Nick Saban
2015 record: 14-1 overall, 7-1 SEC West
2016 Postseason results: Beat Michigan State 38-0 in CFP Semifinals (Cotton Bowl), Beat Clemson 45-40 in CFP Championship Game
2016 returning starters: 6 offense, 6 defense

Betting Info
Odds to win 2016 College Football  Championship game: +575
Odds to win 2015 SEC Championship Game: +187
Odds to Win 2015 SEC West Division: +110
Regular season wins: under 10 1/2 -225 / under 10 1/2 +175
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Alabama looks to repeat as National Champs in 2016.

Alabama looks to repeat as National Champs in 2016.

After a two year hiatus, the Alabama Crimson Tide returned to the top of the college football mountain by winning the College Football Playoff championship game with a 45-40 shootout win over Clemson. For some Crimson Tide fans that two years might as well have been ten. It was after all, the fourth national title for Alabama in the last seven seasons under coach Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide are favored to repeat as champs in 2016 with 12 starters returning.

The only loss for Alabama came to Ole Miss early in the season 43-37. The Tide would then roll on for 14 straight wins including beating Florida 29-15 in the SEC Championship game and crushing Michigan State 38-0 in the semifinals.

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Offense

Alabama averaged 427 yards per game including 200 rushing yards per game. Alabama scored 35 points a game. Six starters are back for coordinator Lane Kiffin.

The Crimson Tide will have to break in a new quarterback. Jake Coker is now with the Arizona Cardinals. He threw for over 3,100 yards with 21 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, and also had 2 rushing touchdowns. Last year’s back-up Cooper Bateman was locked in a battle with redshirt freshman Blake Barnett and true freshman Jalen Hurts for the starting job. No decision has been made but reports say Saban could start Bateman in the first game but Hurts could be the starter in game two. Bateman threw for 291 yards with a touchdown and 2 interceptions last year. He started the loss against Ole Miss.

Heisman Trophy winning running back Derrick Henry declared early for the NFL draft and was a second round pick by the Tennessee Titans. He rushed for 2,219 yards on 395 carries with 28 touchdowns, along with 11 catches. Kenyan Drake has also graduated and was a third round pick by the Miami Dolphins. He had 77 carries for 408 yards and a touchdown, and made 29 catches with a touchdown. For the first time in Saban’s ten year career at Alabama he does not have an established running back. A pair of sophomores Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris will likely split the carries, but Scarbrough is listed on top of the depth chart. Each got a few carries last year but their weren’t a lot  of carries to go around with a workhorse back like Henry.

Last year, Alabama had a ton of experience at running back but virtually none at receiver. This year is just the opposite. The top three pass catchers are back for the Crimson Tide. Calvin Ridley had 89 catches for 1,045 yards and 7 touchdowns. ArDarius Stewart had 63 catches for 700 yards and 4 touchdowns. Receiver Richard Mullaney is now with the Dallas Cowboys after making 38 catches and 5 touchdowns last year. The Crimson Tide do get back Robert Foster. The big play threat missed all but three games last year with a shoulder injury. Bowling Green transfer Gehrig Dieter could also make an impact. Tight end O.J. Howard is also back. He had 38 catches for 602 yards and 2 touchdowns. In the championship game against Clemson, he had over 200 receiving yards and 2 touchdown catches.

Center Ryan Kelly and right tackle Dominick Jackson will be tough to replace on the offensive line. Left tackle Cam Robinson avoided suspension after a May arrest when authorities in Louisiana dropped the drug charges last month. The rest of the line is composed of freshmen and sophomores.

Defense

Alabama had a dominant defense last year under coordinator Kirby Smart. He left to become the head coach at Georgia, but there shouldn’t be significant drop-off under new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Six starters are back, but they lost a lot of talent to the NFL.  Alabama allowed 277 yards per game on defense including 76 rushing yards and 15.1 points per game. The Crimson Tide were in the top three nationally in all of those categories. Alabama forced 52 sacks last year.

End Jonathan Allen is a pass rushing force. He had 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks last year. Da’Shawn Hand will start at the other end in the 3-4 alignment. Da’Ron Payne will start at nose tackle. Dalvin Tomlinson will also contribute significantly.

Reuben Foster will start at middle linebacker after making 73 tackles  including 8 for loss last year. He replaces Reggie Ragland who led the team in tackles with 102 last year. On the outside, Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson combined for 24 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks.

The secondary loses cornerback Cyrus Jones who had 2 interceptions. All-American safety Eddie Jackson is back after making 46 tackles and six interceptions. Ronnie Harrison will start at the other safety. The corners will be Minkah Fitzpatrick and Marlon Humphrey.

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Special Teams

Kicker Adam Griffith made 23 of 32 field goals last year after missing his first five kicks of the season. Punter J.K. Scott averaged 44 yards per punt last year. With the departures of Cyrus Jones and Kenyan Drake, Alabama will have to break in new returners. Jones returned four punts for touchdowns and averaged 12.6 yards per return. Ridley will likely return punts and Xavian Marks will return kicks.

Schedule and Outlook

Alabama opens the season in Arlington, Texas against Southern Cal. They then host Western Kentucky before an early season showdown at Ole Miss. The Rebels have beaten Alabama in two straight seasons. The Crimson Tide then host Kent State and Kentucky. Road games at Arkansas and Tennessee are next. The Tide host Texas A&M before a road game at LSU that will likely decide the SEC West title. Alabama closes the season with three straight home games against Mississippi State, Chattanooga, and the Iron Bowl against Auburn.

There are questions at quarterback and running back, and the defense has lost a lot of talent. Still, they are favored to win the title for a reason as there is a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. I think they at least make the playoffs again if they don’t win the title again. LSU, Ole Miss, and Tennessee are all top 11 teams and Alabama has to travel to all three schools, so any could be a potential pitfall.

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Posted by on Aug 27 2016. Filed under College Football, Headlines. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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