BAMADOG'S GAME PREDICTIONS
- 2016 SEASON -
#1 BAMA vs #2 CLEMSON PREDICTION
College football's National Championship game is upon us and is the first rematch between teams in the history of the sport. In a complete role reversal from last season, #2 Clemson comes in with one loss facing #1 and undefeated Alabama. Against all odds, these 2 teams made it into the playoffs then actually won the semifinals to get here. Clemson blanked Ohio State while Alabama's defense completely shut down newcomer Washington. These ARE the best 2 teams in college football, and in the end, the 4-team playoff proved as such. We don't need 8 teams or even more. If you didn't make the top 4, then you probably don't deserve the chance to play for a title. This game is very tricky, so let's get started...
Alabama's defense vs Clemson's offense: Alabama's defense needs no introduction. You know what you're going to get - a stifling run & scoring defense ranked #1 in the country and a solid pass defense (ranked #6 in the country). Alabama's front 7 is as good as anyone. Alabama's back 4 are as good as the front 7 allow. Because our front 7 have taken away the run and gotten to the QB quickly, our corners and safeties have not had to cover for a long period of time on any given play. However, when given time, opposing offense have had success against our corners, more specifically Humphrey. So count on Clemson scoring - because they will. Our DL will have success, but so will Clemson and Deshaun Watson. He was the Heisman runner-up 2 years in a row and might even have deserved to win it either year. He has the leadership, speed, strength, and football knowledge to make his team a winner.
Clemson has a TON of weapons on offense, 2 of which didn't play in last year's championship game. Cain and Williams will play this year, and don't forget about the little white guy WR that burned us time and time again - Hunter Renfro. He knows how to get open. Throw in the playmaking ability of Watson and the speed of RB Gallman, and you have one of the most potent offenses in the country. Sure they lost to Pitt. It was one game. Just like we lost to Ole Miss last year, but we beat everyone else after that... just because you're undefeated doesn't mean you can't lose. So with Clemson's offense, you get the entire package. Their OL is reputable and will give our defense all it can handle, especially with a mobile QB. I expect them to score, and I expect them to score first and lead at halftime. Read on...
Alabama's offense vs Clemson's defense: Alabama's offense has come out of the gates sputtering the last 5-6 games. That was the meat of the schedule. And that "meat" was very mediocre teams of the SEC. Keep in mind that the 2nd-best team in the league wasn't SEC Championship game loser Florida - it was 4-loss Auburn, which BTW, stunk it up in the Sugar Bowl. Bama's schedule was difficult sure - but there was only 1 QB in the SEC that was worth the jersey he wore... and he lit up Alabama for 43 points in Oxford. Now Washington had a great QB too, but he didn't have a ton of weapons like Clemson. And their defense played well - well enough to put doubt in everyone's mind early. Alabama's offense has been going backwards lately. Not going down the field with completed passes. Not getting the TE involved more. The only thing really working right now are single "big" plays by the RB. We're not really dominating the trenches on offense like we used to. There are way too many busted assignments allowing defensive linemen to just run into an empty hole and tackle Hurts or the RB. It's a bit ridiculous to watch this late in the season, so hopefully some of that get ironed out. Bo Scarbrough has come alive these last 2-3 games and given Alabama hope. Harris and Jacobs have not been hitting the holes hard and go down like flies when touched. Bo has hit another gear and may even get the start in tonight's game. Hurts also has not been on target for the most part. Clemson will exploit that for sure. Passes that hit the defense's numbers won't be dropped - they'll be returned for TDs. Hurts has to be more careful passing the ball or it will be a long night, even with Bama's defense playing well. A pick-6 isn't the defense's fault nor can they defend it.
Of course, we all know that Kiffin was the brains behind the offense, and perhaps his head was in the clouds for the Washington game. We'll never know for sure, but the gameplan definitely wasn't very Alabama-like. Sarkesian will call plays for tonight's game, so it will be a bit interesting to see how that pans out. It does offer a little doubt into Clemson's mind as to what our tendencies will be tonight with a different signal-caller. But overall, I don't see a lot of change from last game to this one - it's not like our playbook changed, and they only had a week to prepare.
I give the Alabama defense a good chance to be successful tonight vs Clemson's offense. But with Alabama's offense going 3-and-out more than normal, the defense will have its hands full and they will get tired being on the field too long. Lack of execution is the only thing that will kill the Tide tonight. I don't believe we'll see a high-scoring game tonight as we did last year. This year, I think it will be a game in the 20's for each team. And it will be close. Unless Alabama woke up over the last week, it could be crazy in Tampa. Alabama needs to complete passes downfield. If that happens, then and only then will the Tide be victorious. There is no way Clemson is going to lose this game if we continually throw east/west for minor games. Clemson is still too good on offense to get shut out. Hurts and the WRs need to be on the same page and turnovers will kill the Tide. No turnovers by Alabama could equal a victory. In this game, Alabama turns it over at least twice to give the game away and end the streak.
26 games without a loss. Eventually, everyone loses. Unfortunately, the tables turn in a rematch that Alabama certainly did not want. Clemson wants it bad, but so does Alabama. Neither team needs motivation. In the end, turnovers (with scores) will be the difference in the game along with Clemson's offensive playmakers that Alabama hasn't seen the likes of all season. Here's to hoping I'm wrong and I'll be cheering the Tide harder than anyone. This is merely a prediction without Rose-colored glasses.... ROLL TIDE ROLL!! Let's get #17 tonight!!
PREDICTION: #1 BAMA 24 - #2 CLEMSON 31
ACTUAL SCORE: #1 BAMA 31 - #2 CLEMSON 35 (BAMADOG 15-0)
#1 BAMA vs #4 WASHINGTON PREDICTION
The 2016 College Football Playoff is here, and Alabama is back in the hunt as the #1 seed in the playoff. We face Washington in the semi's as a heavy favorite. Going into the game, there was a sense of "Alabama is going to pulverize Washington to a pulp" in the air. That sense hasn't died down much as Alabama's process continues through the month of December. Looking at Michigan play a real team in Florida State begs to ask - Michigan actually IS overrated. They were destroying the opposition while playing teams without a Big 10 win and teams at home. Then, the first time they hit the road vs a Big 10 team with at least 1 Big 10 win, they floundered vs Iowa. Then they lost against another good team in Ohio State... and now they are getting hammered by Florida State. Sure they beat Wisconsin and Penn State, but it's obvious that those teams are still run-of-the-mill. This Washington team reminds me of Michigan - but worse. They haven't played anyone with a pulse. The one team that did beat them, Alabama pulverized in the 1st week of the season. Of course, that team is much different after a change in QB was made for the Trojans, but still... not impressive. On Saturday, Washington will see the closest thing to an NFL defensive line. Regardless of whether or not Alabama scores, UW still has to score themselves in order to be competitive. I don't see them getting over 17 points though anything can happen in these types of games. UW taking down Alabama would be David slaying the Goliath of sorts. Bama rides a 25-game winning streak and has been a clear favorite to make the CFP and has remained #1 all season. There has been much separation between Alabama and everyone else. This game will be the next step to #17. With this win, Alabama will extend the winning streak to 26 and a chance to play for another national championship. The only way Washington wins is if the stars are aligned just right. Sorry, but Coach Bryant already talked with God about that. :) Bama big! ROLL TIDE!
PREDICTION: #1 BAMA 45 vs #4 WASHINGTON 14
ACTUAL SCORE: #1 BAMA 24 vs #4 WASHINGTON 7 (BAMADOG 14-0)
#1 BAMA vs #15 FLORIDA PREDICTION
Bama continues its 24-game winning streak into the SEC Championship this weekend in Atlanta versus the SEC East champ Florida Gators. This is the 3rd straight year Alabama has appeared in the SEC Championship game, and we hope to get a first for Saban - 3 in a row. Florida is hobbling into the game after a blow to the head by Florida State last week while Alabama took care of pesky Auburn 30-12 in the Iron Bowl. Alabama, a 24-point favorite, seems to be a lock for the College Football Playoff regardless of win or lose on Saturday, but you can bet these players want to win an SEC Championship. With this next win, a ring is guaranteed. Heading into the playoff, no national championship ring is guaranteed at that point. The SEC Championship means something though the CFP has really taken over most of the sports talk around the country.
In this game, we have to be on alert. The gators have a good defense and may slow down Alabama in the 1st half. The running game has struggled all year, especially in the 1st half. We have also been struggling lately on holding on to the football. On offense, we really need to get the TE position more involved DOWN THE FIELD. I know Kiffin and Co. are trying to keep most of the passes behind the line of scrimmage or on "out routes", but the middle of the field for the TE can be a dagger to the opposing team's defense, and we're just not using it as much as I wish we would.
As for Florida's offense, they shouldn't be a huge concern. They have struggled mightily all season long. Their team is banged up right now, and the offensive guys just aren't making plays like they need to in order to win games. How they won against LSU still leaves me scratching my head - oh wait, never mind. LSU doesn't have an offense either.
So look for more Alabama domination. Win, and we remain the #1 seed in the CFP. Lose, and we still may get that #1 seed. Bama's defense leads the nation in both scoring and rushing defense. I expect the defense to have more success tomorrow and give up a singnle TD at the most with 1-2 FGs tacked on. McElwain will take some shots downfield... and we'll likely get burned a couple of times... but how many times UF gets into the end zone, we'll have to wait and see. If Bama scores 20 points, we should be ok. The defense leads Bama to another SEC Championship. ROLL TIDE!
PREDICTION: #1 BAMA 34 vs #15 FLORIDA 10
ACTUAL SCORE: #1 BAMA 54 vs #15 FLORIDA 16 (BAMADOG 13-0)
#1 BAMA vs #13 AUBURN PREDICTION
This year's Auburn is nothing but a side show as far as the national picture goes. Win or lose, Alabama is going to be in the final 4 in the CFP and the final determination will be if we win the SEC Championship vs Florida in another week. It's a no-lose situation for Alabama except for bragging rights, which mind you, is still huge in this state.
Here are some things in Bama's favor:
1. Alabama enters the game with a 23-game winning streak and looks to not be complacent and get #24
2. The better team usually wins this game
3. Auburn has never defeated Alabama when it's been more than a 10.5-point underdog
4. The game is in Tuscaloosa
5. Alabama's run defense is #1 in the country - it's about the only thing Auburn does well.
6. Bama stumbled last week vs Chattanooga - you can bet they are prepared after a subpar effort
7. Alabama is generally healthier than Auburn right now, and AU needs White and Pettway to play to even have a remote chance of winning.
Basically, Auburn's defense is the only thing that will keep them in the game. They may need to score in order to get on the scoreboard. If Sean White is out, that leaves them with Johnson and Franklin who have TOTALED 279 total years passing between the 2 of them and 2 TDs. RPO quickly turns to pass-only after the pocket swallows up those guys. If that happens, look for the defense to put 1-2 score on the board themselves. I think it's close early with Auburn's defense really keeping it close at halftime. But in the 2nd half, Alabama pulls away and wins by double digits. I don't expect a high-scoring game... but one that Alabama still dominates in the stat book. ROLL TIDE!
PREDICTION: #1 BAMA 27 vs #13 AUBURN 16
ACTUAL SCORE: #1 BAMA 30 vs #13 AUBURN 12 (BAMADOG 12-0)
#1 BAMA vs UT-CHATTANOOGA PREDICTION
This week doesn't really need must brain power to figure out who will win - more of how long the starters will remain in the game - and how many points the 2nd-4th stringers give up. I'm going all 100% confident in the backups. Bama wins cupcake Saturday by a hair! ROLL TIDE
PREDICTION: #1 BAMA 45 - UT-CHATTANOOGA 0
ACTUAL SCORE: #1 BAMA 31 - UT-CHATTANOOGA 3 (BAMADOG 11-0)
#1 BAMA vs MISSISSIPPI STATE PREDICTION
Mississippi State flexed its muscle last week in a win vs Texas A&M. This week, MSU will be playing no such beast as they did last week. This week, beast is an understatement. Bama returns home to Bryant-Denny to finish out the remainder of the regular season. As good as Nick Fitzgerald looked last week, don't expect the same output against Bama. He has 16 TD and 9 Ints on the year. I look for that interception total to increase after Saturday's game. His biggest weapon is Fred Ross. If we can shut him down, there's not much the MSU offense will be able to do, especially with the rushing defense playing like it is. Jalen Hurts looks to get back on track with the rest of the team in order to put together a complete offensive team win. Last week, he nearly had to do everything himself due to the lack of passing offense vs LSU. Look for more of the same stifling defense paired up with some offense that may break out of their shell one last time before Auburn comes to town (yeah, not counting Chattanooga). Teams need to be playing their BEST football at the end of the season. Right now, I feel a slight downtilt in the play-making... it's time to ramp it up and play to our full ability. Bama gets the win in normal Bama-MSU fashion. I think we see the end zone a bit more today. ROLL TIDE!
PREDICTION: #1 BAMA 45 vs MISSISSIPPI STATE 10
ACTUAL SCORE: #1 BAMA 51 vs MISSISSIPPI STATE 3 (BAMADOG 10-0)
#1 BAMA vs #13 LSU PREDICTION
The bye week is over, and now it's Alabama vs LSU week! This has traditionally been power on power, but lately, Alabama has made LSU look more like the mid-tier team in the Big 12 in each of the last 5 years. This season, LSU lost their head coach, Les Miles, after only 4 games. They started 2-2 with losses over now-ranked teams Wisconsin and Auburn. Those teams currently don't look too shabby. Since then they have beaten such powerhouses as Missouri, Southern Miss, and Ole Miss. Yeah, powerhouses I think not. People keep talking about the turnaround that "Coach O" has done since Miles was fired. I have news for those ignorant people - LSU likely would have won those games anyway. Now, LSU gets their first ranked team at home this season - ALABAMA.
Alabama comes in at #1 in the country and also boasting one of the best defenses of all time. We will however, be without Eddie Jackson for the first time this weekend. How that affects our 2ndary, we will see on Saturday. You don't lose 1st/2nd round draft picks from your team and it not make a difference. Losing Jackson hurts tremendously, especially on punt returns. Jackson played smart and was the QB in the 2ndary. Now, guys like Tony Brown and Hootie Jones will have to pick up the slack on a more regular basis. Experience at the safety position may cost us a TD at some point come Saturday night if we're not careful. His absence will be missed.
On offense, Taylor has still not been cleared to play on the OL, but hopefully that will change come game time. Scarbrough was sick earlier in the week, but Saban believes he should be ok for the game. Having said that, the offense will need to be error-free and score early and often to keep LSU's crazy crown out of the game. Tiger stadium is loud, people -- possibly the loudest in college football - that is, if their team is still in the game. That's why Bama needs to jump on them early and send their fans packing by the 3rd quarter. With the way our team has been playing and the mindset they have, I'm hoping their fans have packed up by halftime.
Having said that, Danny Etling is not the answer for LSU. Historically, the speed of Alabama's defense can only be beaten by a QB that can be a dual threat. The only time that didn't apply was Steven Garcia at South Carolina, where he played out of his mind a few years ago. In Baton Rouge this weekend, Danny Etling isn't going to know what hit him. There's a good chance Harris may get in the game because the passing game shouldn't go anywhere. Fournette may get a couple of long runs on us if we miss tackles, but overall, Alabama knows what keeps the LSU train going - their running game. It is imperative that Alabama shut down Fournette and Guice as it did last year. If that happens, LSU can help add more defensive TDs to the Bama stat board.
LSU's defense has gotten better this year, but in looking at quality teams that have played them, they are mediocre at best. Ole Miss and Auburn both lit them up. With Alabama averaging an SEC best 44 ppg, and the defense continuing to get better and playing lights out each game, I can't really find a scenario in which LSU scores enough points to beat Alabama. The Bama defense is just that good... spot them 7 for the absence of Eddie Jackson, but I think we would still take 'em. It's going to be loud, and so far Hurts has played better on the road than he has at home. If Bama scores 14 points, that may be enough to win the game right there. I look for more of the same from Bama, but LSU keeps it interesting for a quarter while the score is 0-0. I'm being a bit conservative on my prediction, but this game could get really ugly with the inexperience of Etling throwing the ball around and Bama controlling their running game (#1 in the country). Look for Bama to roll for #6 in a row against the Tigers and continuing the overall winning streak to 21. ROLL TIDE!
PREDICTION: #1 BAMA 38 vs #13 LSU 13
ACTUAL SCORE: #1 BAMA 10 vs #13 LSU 0 (BAMADOG 9-0)
#1 BAMA vs #6 TEXAS A&M PREDICTION
One of the biggest showdowns of the year is upon us. Little did we know it would be Texas A&M when the season started. TAM's revamped defense has complimented their offense as Trevor Knight has taken over QB duties this year. Chavis has helped this defense along - against much lesser opponents than Alabama. You can't get to comparing how teams do against common teams because that will send you down a long and deep rabbit hole... however, the fact that TAM could only beat UT in OT because of 7 UT turnovers?? That's pretty bad. Alabama will look for more of the same Saturday - Defensive line play. The DL will be the key to this game as it is many games. Knight is a quality mobile QB that has beaten Alabama in the past (though at OU). He played out of his mind that night but has since transferred after subpar play with the Sooners the following year. Now, Alabama is faster, stronger, faster (did I mention that?), and has an offense that leads the SEC in scoring. Yeah - ALABAMA leads the SEC in scoring. What year is this?? Add to that a defense that is smothering and likes to score and you have a recipe for another double-digit win in T-town which would bring the winning streak to 20. This is something we haven't seen in a long time. Enjoy it, Bamafans. What goes up, must come down. But on this weekend, the only going down will be Texas A&M's pride. Texas A&M will score early, but the defense will adjust. Hurts will continue to score and show why he is the best QB in this game. If anyone stops Alabama, it's going to be Alabama. Let's not shoot ourselves in the foot this week... this SEC West game COULD be for all the marbles as it would give Bama in essence, a 2-game lead. This game is big - and it's time Bama took over the top spot on their own. ROLL TIDE!
PREDICTION: #1 BAMA 45 vs #6 TEXAS A&M 24
ACTUAL SCORE: #1 BAMA 33 vs #6 TEXAS A&M 14 (BAMADOG 8-0)
#1 BAMA vs #9 TENNESSEE PREDICTION
Alabama heads to Knoxville this weekend to take on the Tennessee Vols whose luck finally ran out last weekend against Texas A&M. This week should prove to be more of the same but with the Tide putting a stranglehold on the Vols' neck to keep a comeback from happening. Alabama's defense has been suffocating for the most part. Last week, after 2nd stringers went into the game on defense, Arkansas scored a few more points to make the score respectable. However, when Bama's 1st-stringers are out there, it's a serious force to be reckoned with. Saban will not let up in this game, and he shouldn't. After numerous UT comebacks, no lead will be safe until 5 minutes to go and we're up by 28. The crowd will be loud, but I look for this complete Alabama team to silence the crowd early - AND KEEP THEM SILENCED until the end. UT will put up some points with a mobile Dobbs at QB. In the end, a mobile Hurts paired up with a strong Alabama defense will prove to be the difference. Somehow, Alabama continues to put up points like it never has before. Today, we'll see more of the same... and here's to hoping UT's luck remains absent for at least another week. ROLL TIDE!
PREDICTION: #1 BAMA 48 vs #9 TENNESSEE 23
ACTUAL SCORE: #1 BAMA 49 vs #9 TENNESSEE 10 (BAMADOG 7-0)
#1 BAMA vs #16 ARKANSAS PREDICTION
Bama rolls into Fayetteville this weekend with one of the toughest road tests this season. Arkansas is built a lot like Alabama and usually gives the Tide some close calls as of late. The problem for Arkansas is - they have a new QB that's unproven against a quality defense. Strangely enough though, he leads the SEC in QB ranking. They have beaten TCU in double OT but lost to Texas A&M by close to 20 points.
They are giving up too many points, and Saturday, things will be more of the same. And with Alabama's defense playing lights out right now, the Hogs may keep it close early as the home crowd fuels their team, but there will be too much Alabama in the 2nd half to keep the Tide down. I expect to see more of the same this weekend with Alabama winning by double-digits though for most of the game, it will be close.
PREDICTION: #1 BAMA 33 vs #16 ARKANSAS 13
ACTUAL SCORE: #1 BAMA 49 vs #16 ARKANSAS 30 (BAMADOG 6-0)
#1 BAMA vs KENTUCKY PREDICTION
Today, it's more of the same Bama dominance over SEC East opponents. Kentucky proves to be no true matchup for Alabama as Kentucky has only beaten Alabama twice in the history of the series - once in 1922 and again in 1997, both times in Lexington. Alabama rides a streak of 22 of 23 wins at home, and UK should not pose a real threat to Alabama as Kentucky has struggled on the field this year against mediocre opponents. The Alabama defense should help put this one away early as the Tide extends its winning streak to 17 games. ROLL TIDE!
PREDICTION: #1 BAMA 48 - KENTUCKY 10
ACTUAL SCORE: #1 BAMA 34 - KENTUCKY 6 (BAMADOG 5-0)
#1 BAMA vs KENT STATE PREDICTION
Again, it's not whether Bama will win, but by how much. It's against Saban's old school so the starters will be out by the 3rd Q and he won't run up the score. Bama wins easily 42-7 this week and looks to Kentucky.
PREDICTION: #1 BAMA 42 - KENT STATE 7
ACTUAL SCORE: #1 BAMA 48 - KENT STATE 0 (BAMADOG 4-0)
#1 BAMA vs #19 OLE MISS PREDICTION
It's a new year. It's a new team. It's a new QB, RB, and C along with more of the OL. It's a year in which Alabama is quicker and faster, but with less experience in the center of the offense. Can Bama finally end a 2-yr drought against the Rebels? We shall found out soon...
Bama has cruised to "easy" wins in the 1st two games of the season. USC proved that depth was a problem for them, and Western Kentucky wasn't built to stop the Tide. The defense has come to play both weeks so far, and Saturday will be no different. This is Saban's fastest defense though not as deep as last year's team. The DE's are faster to the QB, and the CBs have more experience in the 2ndary. We all know last year was a fluke having committed 5 turnovers and still coming up a bit short in the end. And the play we constantly get to see of Kelly just heaving up a pass just before he would have been sacked - yes - LUCK. Freak luck. And the football gods remembered that play and others, when Ole Miss later played Arkansas that same season - the 4th down play that extended the game for Arkansas, then saw the Hogs beating Ole Miss which propelled Alabama into the SEC Championship and Playoffs.
This year, there is no real "ground and pound" running game. With no punishing back that has stepped up to the plate, Alabama is more finesse now - well, at least on offense. We're not going to smack you in the mouth this year. It's all about getting the ball to the WRs with a little RB sprinkled in every now and again. Hurts has proven that he can step in and play with the big boys. He hasn't played on the road in the SEC though. And he won't play a much better defense the rest of the year than he will play on Saturday. Their defense is good. FSU carved them up in the 2nd half, but they are still formidable.
I think (as with every game this season), the defense will give us a chance to win. I think early on, it will be close with the loud crowd, and getting the road jitters out. With no similance of a running game, that's how passing and read-option teams work - how goes the QB, so goes the offense. Hurts will struggle, but a lot of that will have to do with the OL not blocking - the same reason we can't run the ball. The team just has to start gelling, and this is the week for it to happen. But baby steps, Bama. We'll be lucky to get out of Oxford with a win again this year. But the defense and special teams GIVE us that chance. Look for a nail biter, but we find a way to end the 2-year streak.
PREDICTION: #1 BAMA 24 - #19 OLE MISS 17
ACTUAL SCORE: #1 BAMA 48 - #19 OLE MISS 43 (BAMADOG 3-0)
#1 BAMA vs WESTERN KENTUCKY PREDICTION
These kinds of predictions aren't really predictions of who will win but of what the score will be. We all know Coach Saban as one that will not really run up the score. He will also put in 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th teamers in the game to make sure that doesn't always happen. Today, we'll see more of the same. Bama could run up the score but won't. Where the scoring stops, who knows. As far Bama goes, Hurts will likely get the start vs Western Kentucky. He earned it in the USC game after the nervous and shaky start Barnett gave. Of course, once the butterflies were out and we had the big lead, he came back in and looked much better. He didn't look quite as scared - but relaxed. Perhaps that's all the guy needed. In any case, I look for Hurts to have a good day until the backups get in, and I look for the defense to get 3 interceptions on this pass-happy offense. Enjoy the sunny day, Bamafans. Tide rolls to 2-0!
PREDICTION: #1 BAMA 45 WESTERN KENTUCKY 7
ACTUAL SCORE: #1 BAMA 38 WESTERN KENTUCKY 10 (BAMADOG 2-0)
#1 BAMA vs #20 USC PREDICTION
Bama/USC is upon us, and all the country will be watching - well, our game and the game on Monday night (Ole Miss vs FSU). Those are the biggest games of the weekend by far. Alabama enters the game just having come off a National Championahip in 2015 and looking for a repeat. This year, it will be more of the same in QB replacement, but this season will also require RB and OL replacement. Gone are Coker, Henry, Drake, and Kelly. In now, is a whole set of guys up the middle. New QB, RB, and C. Who Saban decides will start at these positions is not yet 100%, but you can rest assured that he will put the guy out there that will give Alabama the best chance to win the game. It is believed that at this point, it is Cooper Bateman's position to lose at QB with Barnett at his heels. However, the coaching staff may have a plan to play both anyway. Time will tell.
For USC, they start a new QB in Max Brown. He will go up against one of the best defenses in college football. Alabama lost some talent to the NFL, but there is PLENTY coming back. I look for Jonathon Allen to be in the backfield quite a bit tomorrow night. Eddie Jackson looks to ball-hawk a bit more while at LB, Rueben Foster will hopefully try and clog up the middle. The rest of the DBs all have experience and look to shut down the USC passing attack. They will have to stop one of the top WRs in the country in Juju Smith-Schuster. He brought in 1454 yards last year and 10 TDs - compare that to Alabama's sophomore sensation who took in 1045 yards and 7 TDs. They might have the best WR in the country, but Alabama has the best TRIO in the country. Foster and Stewart will help in receiving, and then hopefully after a coming-out part in the playoffs last year, perhaps we'll see more of our TE O.J. Howard. He finished the year last year #3 in receiving, but 1/2 of those yards came in the playoffs. Transfer Gehrig Dieter will also play a huge roll at WR. He came from Bowling Green and should make an immediate impact. He should be this year's Richard Mullaney or possibly better.
On Special teams, everyone is back - and hopefully better. JK Scott should continue to boom some rockets on 4th down... keep in mind that last year, he struggled in the 1st game vs Wisconsin but redeemed himself after that. And then Adam Griffith will hopefully continue to improve after going 62 for 62 on PATs last year and 23 of 32 on FGs. Griffith struggled at times last season but overall didn't do badly. He was 11/14 on FG's under 30 yards, 5/7 30-39, 5/9 40-49, and 2-2 50+. He's our man, so let's get behind him Bama!
As for a prediction, Bama should win based on history and a dominating defense. The question will be how well Alabama can put together the running game with a new QB that hasn't proven anything much on the field just yet. If USC loads the box to stop Bo Scarbrough, there isn't much left to really pound the rock like we want. Damien Harris is a great RB, but lacks the size Alabama has grown accustomed to over the years. If the running game flourishes, it will be a blowout - if our OL can't get on the right track, it could be a low-scoring affair on both sides. Look for Saban and Kiffin to give his QB some early easy throws and bubble screens to get their feet wet. Ridley needs to break out in order to force more coverage downfield and give way to the running lanes. If we can hit a few deep balls to Ridley or Howard, I think Alabama will be ok. I look for a much closer game than we have been used to seeing. ROLL TIDE!
PREDICTION: #1 BAMA 20 - #20 USC 13
ACTUAL SCORE: #1 BAMA 52 - #20 USC 6 (BAMADOG 1-0)