Alabama Crimson Tide
2010 Record: 10-3
2010 Bowl Result: Beat Michigan St 49-7 in Capital One Bowl
2010 Against the Spread: 8-5
2010 over/under: 5-7-1
Returning Starters: 14 (6 offense, 8 defense)
Throughout August we are releasing pre-season previews for all the major college teams. Our College Football Handicappers are doing plenty of research to make sure we release winners every week during the upcoming season.
Alabama came into last season with expectations of defending their 2010 national title in the last year for the big 3, QB Greg McIlroy, RB Mark Ingram, and WR Julio Jones. All three ended up drafted by NFL teams, with Ingram and Jones first round picks. However losses to South Carolina and LSU dropped the Tide out of contention for the national title last season. Alabama could have played spoiler in the Iron Bowl against undefeated arch-rival Auburn. Auburn ended winning that game 28-27 and went on to win the national title. Alabama had to settle for a Capital One Bowl berth where the Tide crushed Michigan St 49-7. This year Alabama returns 14 starters.
This season took an emotional turn in April when a large tornado destroyed a significant part of Tuscaloosa, home of the Alabama campus. The community came together to help including coach Nick Saban and the Alabama players. even rival Auburn and their fans put aside their hatred to help in whatever way they could. Such a tragedy could bring Alabama closer as a team, and Alabama is already the #2 team in the pre-season polls. They are a definite contender to win the national title.
Here is a look at Alabama’s offense, defense special teams, and schedule
Alabama averaged 444.7 yards a game last which was #23 in the country. The passing game averaged 261.2 yards a game and the rushing game averaged 183.5 yards a game. Alabama scored 35.7 points a game which was #18 in the country. The unit must replace 6 starters, including McIlroy, Ingram, and Jones.
Sophomore A.J. McCarron and redshirt freshman Phillip Sims will compete for the starting job to replace McIlroy. McCarron saw limited action last season with 389 yards and 3 touchdowns. He completed 62.5% of his passes. He has good size, mobility, and good instincts when looking for an open receiver. Sims might actually be more talented but doesn’t have the experience of McCarron. Both could see some snaps early until the quarterback situation is settled. True Freshman Phillip Ely could redshirt this year,and redshirt freshman Blake Sims could move to another position. In fact, Blake is listed as an athlete on the Alabama roster. Blake Sims is not related to Phillip despite the same last name.
Despite having 30 rushing touchdowns last year, the rushing game was considered a disappointment because it only ranked 5th in the SEC last year. Junior running back Trent Richardson replaces Ingram and might even be better than the Heisman winning Ingram. Richardson is certainly is more explosive. Richardson had 112 carries for 700 yards and 6 touchdowns. He started a couple of games at the beginning of the season as Ingram recovered from an injury. Richardson also had 23 catches, 266 yards, and 4 touchdowns. Richardson also averaged 26.4 yards a kick return and ran one back. He suffered a knee injury midway through the season. He has only had 15 carries or more in a game twice in his career. If he can hold up he could be a Heisman contender. Sophomore Eddie Lacy also returns after he had 56 carries, 406 yards, and 6 touchdowns. Lacy will be the number 2 back. True Freshman Demetrius Hart and sophomore Jalston Fowler will also get some carries.
Despite losing the talented Jones, the offense does return several play makers at receiver and tight end. Senior Marquis Maze is the top returning receiver with 38 catches, 557 yards, and 3 touchdowns last year. He even threw a 19 yard touchdown pass year on his one attempt for a QB rating of 589.6. Senior Darius Hanks returns after he had 38 carries, 557 yards, and 3 scores last year. Sophomore Michael Bowman, senior Brandon Gibson, Junior Duron Carter, redshirt freshman DeAndrew White, sophomores Kenny Bell & Kevin Norwood, and redshirt freshaman Keiwone Malone will all see time at receiver. Junior tight end Michael Williams caught 8 passes for 100 yards and a touchd0wn last season. Seniors Brad Smelley and Chris Underwood will also see some time at tight end.
Four offensive linemen return from a unit that was #88 in pass protection, and struggled to open up holes for the talented running backs. The Tide does have to replace LT James Carpenter, a first round draft pick by the Seahawks. Senior right guard Barrett Jones could move over to left tackle to replace Carpenter. Right Tackle D.J. Fluker will anchor the line along with Jones.
The Alabama defense was dominant ranking in or near the top 10 in all major categories. The Crimson Tide allowed only 287.8 total yards a game which was #5 in the country. The Tide allowed only 176.2 passing yards a game and 111.5 rushing yards a game. Alabama ranked #3 in scoring defense allowing only 13.5 points a game. The defense returns 8 starters so they should still be one of the elite defenses in the country.
Alabama might have two of the best linebackers in the country with junior Dont’a Hightower and sophomore C.J. Mosley. The secondary has tons of depth with 6 NFL quality defensive backs and safeties, including safety Mark Barron and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.
Junior Jeremy Shelley and sophomore Cade Foster will split the kicking duties. Shelley will kick extra points and short field goals inside 40 yards. He was 12 for 16 last year on field goals. Foster was 7 for 9 last season, including 5 for 7 from40 and above. He also handles kickoffs.
Sophomore punter Cody Mandell averaged only 39 yards per punt last year but he had 13 inside the 20 and forced 15 fair catches.
Maze and Richardson will return kicks and punts. Richardson is of the best kick returners in the country.
Alabama opens with a home game against Kent St before traveling to Penn St, and a home against North Texas before conference play starts. They host Georgia Southern late in the season in another non conference game. In conference, Alabama gets Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and LSU at home. The Tide travels to Florida, Ole Miss, Mississippi St, and Auburn. They do avoid South Carolina and Georgia until the SEC championship game if they make it that far. Alabama has a great shot of running the table with the games at Penn St, Florida, and Auburn, along with the home game against LSU are the only potential landmine. Even if they lose one of those games they still have a good shot of playing in the BCS championship game, unless the loss is to LSU and the Tigers run the table.
Alabama was 8-5 against the spread last year including 6-2 at home and 2-3 on the road. The over/under was 5-7-1 including 2-5-1 at home and 3-2 on the road.
Game to Play Alabama
Alabama should be favored in every game, many by double digits. I like Alabama to cover against a rebuilding Arkansas team at home, but you can almost take your pick of games to play Alabama.
Game to bet against Alabama
Last season in Tuscaloosa, Alabama destroyed rival Florida 31-6. Alabama comes to Gainesville October 1. Florida is much improved and might even pull the upset. Either way, this should be a close game.
Check out our college football odds page for the best line on every game.