We have reached the #1 team in the nation and it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Here is team #1 and the 2010 Alabama Crimson Tide Football Preview. This will conclude our 31 teams in 31 days college football preview from the Maddux Sports college football handicapping team.
No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide
2009 record: 14-0
2009 Bowl Game: 37-21 win over Texas in BCS Championship Game
2009 ATS: 9-4
Returning starters: 10 (8 on offense, 2 on defense)
The defending BCS champions return eight starters on offense and look just as dangerous offensively as they did in 2009. Senior quarterback Greg McElroy is 30-0 as a starter in high school and college combined, and put up strong numbers last season.
He threw for 2,508 yards and completed 60.9 percent of his passes. McElroy took great care of the football, throwing only four picks in 2009. His 17 touchdown passes aren’t as many as other top passers have racked up, but when you have Mark Ingram running down the throat of opposing defenses, you don’t need that.
Ingram won the Heisman Trophy last year and became only the third sophomore in history to do so. Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford are the other two. Ingram ran for 1,658 yards in 2009 and scored 17 touchdowns. He averaged a strong 6.1 yards on 271 carries.
The Crimson Tide have their top receivers returning. Julio Jones caught 43 passes for 596 yards and four touchdowns. Marquiz Maze showed off his explosiveness averaging 16.9 yards on 31 receptions. He scored two touchdowns, and had an 80-yard reception.
The offensive line loses left guard Mike Johnson and right tackle Drew Davis, but stays mostly intact. Despite losing their top player, they look stronger than last season, as they are more experienced.
This line will allow Ingram to have another strong season and should give McElroy plenty of time to unleash the passing attack.
The Crimson Tide return only two starters on defense, but the school’s strong recruiting has experts believe that they could be even better in 2010. They lose the entire starting defensive line, but the replacements have plenty of experience.
The linebacking unit is less experienced than last year’s, but the talent makes up for it. They lose star linebacker Rolando McClain, who went to the Oakland Raiders with the eighth overall pick. He led the team with 105 tackles last season and added four sacks as well as 10.5 tackles for a loss. He had impressive numbers when dropping back into coverage, breaking up four passes and picking off two.
Dont’a Hightower steps in as the most experienced linebacker. He has 12 career starts and recorded 16 tackles last year. Nico Johnson had the best numbers out of the four linebackers last season, totaling 28 tackles, one sack, and 3.5 tackles for a loss.
The defensive backfield loses cornerbacks Javier Arenas and Kareem Jackson, who combined for six interceptions. Jackson broke up 13 passes in 2009. Free safety Justin Woodall (3 INT, 5 passes broken up, and 45 tackles) is gone, and so is nickelback Marquis Johnson, who broke up 17 passes.
Junior strong safety Mark Barron anchors the less experienced secondary. He proved to be a ball hawk in 2009, picking off seven passes and breaking up 11. He also was the team’s second best tackler with 76.
Alabama loses a lot of talent on special teams and will have to look for replacements in all areas of this phase of the game.
Kicker Leigh Tiffin, who had a strong 2009 campaign, is gone, and true freshman Cade Foster will most likely replace him.
The Crimson Tide lose punter PJ Fitzgerald, who averaged 41.5 yards and forced 16 fair catches. He pinned opponents within the 20-yard line 19 times. True Feshman Jay Williams will take over for him.
The biggest loss for the Crimson Tide might be return specialist Javier Arenas. He averaged 15.4 yards on punt returns and scored a touchdown. He returned 19 kicks for 551 yards and a 29.0 yard average. Julio Jones seems to be the front runner to take over return duties.
Against the spread
The Crimson Tide went 9-4 against the college football point spread in 2009. They were 3-3 as the home favorite and 3-1 when favored on the road. They went 6-3 against other teams from the SEC and 3-1 in non-conference games.
Alabama is 21-17-1 ATS under fourth year head coach Nick Saban. They have gone 56-64-4 ATS in the last ten years.
You can bet on it
Bet on the Crmison Tide against Mississippi on October 16. Alabama has won six straight and beat Mississippi 20-3 last year behind a strong defensive showing. By the time the teams meet the inexperienced Tide defense should be gelling, and I think they will beat up on Mississippi again.
Favor the fade
Fade the Tide at LSU on November 6. Alabama has won two in a row, but the games were close. The teams went to overtime in 2008 and 2005, and there hasn’t been a game that was decided by more than 14 points in the last five years. This one could be another close one as Saban faces his former team, and I wouldn’t bet on the Tide covering here.