There are two ways to tell it is mid-June in the South: One way is it’s so hot I don’t blame people for barely wearing clothes at Walmart and the other is most of the college football preview magazines are out. (Of course, you could just look at the calendar, too, but where’s the fun in that?)
The consensus among the national media is it’ll be Alabama, Clemson then everyone else. That assessment may be fair based on talent, coaching and recent history, but I wonder if we are immune to those teams’ potential pitfalls because our expectations are so exceptional for them.
For example, Alabama has a litany of dynamic players at the receiver position, but what about the tight end spot? With Irv Smith’s early-entry to the NFL, the Tide is left with several players who have the high school cred but have not proven themselves at this level yet. Gloss over that issue if you choose, but Smith played a key role in several games last year (as did O.J. Howard in the seasons before).
The offensive line has some true road-graders, but is it not curious at all ’Bama picked up former Florida State lineman Landon Dickerson from the transfer portal? Granted, Dickerson was a five-star out of high school and a starter at FSU when he was healthy. There is no doubt the kid can play. I suppose it just struck me a bit odd Alabama felt the need to take a chance on a transfer this late in the game.
The one place no one seems to be worried at with the Crimson Tide is running back. Najee Harris, Brian Robinson, Jerome Ford and Trey Sanders all have name recognition among college football analysts.
However, which one can pick up a blitz and protect Tua Tagovailoa like Josh Jacobs did? Which one can be a team leader and ambassador like Damien Harris? We all like to think a running back just needs to, ya know, “run”, but there is a lot more to it than that.
Then there’s the schedule.
Of course, Alabama has been ridiculed for its non-conference slate, but after looking over some of the so-called “toughest schedules in the country,” I am not so sure the Tide wouldn’t want to switch places. Take UCLA’s slate (which sees Oklahoma, USC, Stanford and, I guess, Colorado as its four hardest games) versus the Tide’s (with LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M and South Carolina has its most difficult).
Considering the other eight games for each pretty much average out, is ’Bama’s that much less daunting? The only reason you may think so is because Alabama is clearly better than UCLA meaning that, by nature, UCLA’s path is perceived to be tougher because they are weaker.
The point is, Alabama is not going to just march through the SEC with ease as many predict. There are some danger zones along the slate.
That said, I still predict ’Bama to make the College Football Playoff. I am not crazy.