2021 Season Preview: Alabama Crimson Tide

Stoney Keeley takes a look at the state of the Crimson Tide in his 2021 Alabama preview.

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Over the course of the next several weeks, the SoBros Network crew will be going around the landscape of the SEC, team by team, previewing the upcoming American tackle football season. Up next, our 2021 Alabama preview!

2021 Alabama Preview

Replacing the Heisman winner, another Heisman finalist, and three more first round NFL Draft picks on offense alone might sound like an impossible task. But, let’s face it – this is the Alabama Crimson Tide. This is one of college football’s blue bloods, and throughout the course of his tenure with the Tide, Nick Saban has done a tremendous job in restocking the cupboard after every season. It’s a cliché, sure, but it means something when you’re talking about Alabama – they don’t rebuild; they reload. One guy leaves for the NFL, and another guy destined for the NFL steps up to take his place. We’ve seen it at quarterback, receiver, running back, the offensive line, linebackers, cornerbacks – across the board.

But, for the sake of getting on with this preview and not spending too much time gushing about how great Saban is, let’s start with the offense. It’s become a haven for wide receivers, and John Metchie III looks more than capable of stepping right up as the Tide’s next elite WR1. They have yet another stable of talented running backs, led by the incumbent starter, Brian Robinson. And, they have more NFL talent along the offensive line, led by preseason All-American Evan Neal. Despite losing so much talent to the NFL, this is a unit that should be potent at the skill positions and along the offensive line yet again. But, the big question on offense lies in a position that hasn’t had a lot of ’em over the last several seasons: quarterback. After years of Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, and Mac Jones, the Tide will be leaning on a different style of quarterback in sophomore Bryce Young. Young is a dynamic, electric, dual-threat quarterback, but he doesn’t have a whole lot of experience in meaningful game action just yet. A lot of Alabama’s success in 2021 is going to depend on how he steps up into that role. Not to mention, Steve Sarkisian left to be the head coach at Texas. Saban brought in Bill O’Brien to serve as the team’s new offensive coordinator, so how the offensive scheme changes remains to be seen.

On defense, Dylan Moses is out, opening the door for Christian Harris to emerge as a leader. He leads a promising group of linebackers that will also feature Tennessee transfer Henry To’o To’o. The Tide has a beefy veteran defensive line, and some incredible talent in the secondary headlined by Jordan Battle, Josh Jobe, and Malachi Moore. Pete Golding has a wealth of talent to work with on that side of the ball, and based on some of the uncertainty on offense heading into the season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the defense once again become the strength of the Tide team.

You hate to put too much stock into one person, but the reality is that this Tide team looks as loaded with talent as ever. It just all comes down to how Young is able to step up and guide this team at quarterback. If he’s everything we think he can be, Alabama could be damn near unstoppable again. If he struggles, it could open the door for an upset. I know I’ve gushed about how talented this team is, but I don’t really get the sense that it is as bulletproof as it has felt in preseasons past. This program has become rather spoiled at the quarterback position over the last decade, so it feels odd to face questions about it. We automatically just assume this machine will keep on rolling, but if Young doesn’t click, or O’Brien doesn’t click, then it could mean Alabama coming back to the pack a little bit. We’ll see.

2021 Crimson Tide Schedule

Saturday, 9/4: vs. Miami (in Atlanta) – Miami is going to have a solid team with a Heisman hopeful at quarterback, but the overall talent disparity favors Alabama. This is a game they should win with their defense even if the offense isn’t quite jelling just yet.

Saturday, 9/11: vs. Mercer – Take that breather after a quality opponent in the opener. You’ve earned it.

Saturday, 9/18: @ Florida – This game is a prime slip-up candidate if the offense struggles early on, especially since it’s in Gainesville, though I expect the Tide defense to swarm a Florida offense that is transitioning at quarterback as well.

Saturday, 9/25: vs. Southern Miss – All due respect to Southern Miss, let’s make it 4-0 to start the season.

Saturday, 10/2: vs. Ole Miss – Ole Miss played Alabama well a season ago before the Tide settled in and pulled away. They have the best quarterback in the conference, and could absolutely make this game interesting.

Saturday, 10/9: @ Texas A&M – If the Aggies are going to do it, this is the year to do it.

Saturday, 10/16: @ Mississippi State – Mississippi State could be the biggest wild card in the SEC this year, but even at their ceiling, I don’t think they’re challenging Alabama.

Saturday, 10/23: vs. Tennessee – The Vols are rebuilding under Josh Heupel, and when you compare these two teams, roster to roster, the Vols just don’t stack up. They aren’t ready to win a game like this one.

Saturday, 10/30: BYE

Saturday, 11/6: vs. LSU – Coach O and company are chasing the glory of the 2019 season, and there’s always some talent down there at LSU. But, I don’t see the offense scoring the way it did two seasons ago against this defense. Joe Burrow ain’t walkin’ through that door.

Saturday, 11/13: vs. New Mexico State – Better get that late season rest/tune-up game in while we’re at it!

Saturday, 11/20: vs. Arkansas – I like what Sam Pittman has done with the Razorbacks program. He’s got those boys on track and heading in the right direction. But, they just don’t have the horses this year to hang with this Tide squad.

Saturday, 11/27: @ Auburn – Auburn should have no business beating Alabama this year, considering their rebuilding under a new head coach. But, the fact that this game is in Auburn makes me at least a smidge anxious.

Prediction

Alabama absolutely should be the favorite in the SEC West again this year, but I don’t think the gap between them, Texas A&M, and Ole Miss is as wide as it has been in the past. A lot of this season is going to come down to how well Young and O’Brien get acclimated together. This is absolutely a championship defense, and if the offense can keep on truckin’ without much of a hitch, they should absolutely be thinkin’ College Football Playoff yet again down in Tuscaloosa. Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Florida, and LSU are the teams that could make this season interesting – and that game in College Station could determine the SEC West’s representative in Atlanta. My official gun-to-my-head prediction is 11-1, with the Tide dropping one of those four games.

OTHER SEC 2021 SEASON PREVIEWS

Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network, and a Dogs Playing Poker on velvet connoisseur. He is a strong supporter of Team GSD, #BeBetter, and ‘Minds right, asses tight.’ “Big Natural” covers the Tennessee Titans, Nashville, Yankee Candle, and a whole wealth of nonsense. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley

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