Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn

Alabama has won half of the championships in the past decade and has made an appearance in the College Football Playoff every year since it was implemented. 

For a decade, Bama has been at the top of the college football world — a trend that seems destined to continue for at least as long as Nick Saban is head coach.

For all the talent the Crimson Tide possesses, they are not without fault — no matter how small those faults may be. Last year’s embarrassing 44-16 championship game beat down at the hands of Clemson showed that.

If the Tigers can get to the Iron Bowl with minimal mistakes, 2019’s version of college football's biggest rivalry could be an exciting one.

 

Offense

It all starts with QB Tua Tagovailoa. Last year’s Heisman runner-up is arguably the best quarterback in the country and after a stellar sophomore season that saw the Hawaiian post 48 total touchdowns with only six interceptions, the 6-foot-1, 218-pound QB should continue to be one of college football’s most explosive players.

Tagovailoa will have an arsenal of wideouts to help him in his quest for a Heisman. Six-foot-one receiver Jerry Jeudy established himself last year as arguably the country’s top wide receiver.

Last year’s 1,315-yard, 14-touchdown stat line won’t be easy to top but if anyone has the talent to do so, it’s Jeudy.

Fellow junior Henry Ruggs III is a star in his own right and joins Jeudy on the preseason All-SEC first team. Ruggs caught 46 balls for 741 yards and 11 TDs last year.

After an impressive freshman campaign that saw WR Jaylen Waddle post 848 yards and seven touchdowns, the 5-foot-11 wideout rounds out a trio of receivers that might make up the top receiver group in the country in 2019.

Losing two players of the caliber of running backs Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris would hurt most teams. However, Alabama has 6-foot-2, 230-pound running back Najee Harris waiting in the wings.

Harris rushed for 783 yards and four TDs last year on almost seven yards per carry. With Jacobs and Damien Harris gone, the junior should thrive as the primary option in the Bama backfield.

On the offensive line, Bama will have to replace three NFL-caliber talents in tackle Jonah Williams and guards Lester Cotton and Ross Pierschbacher.

While there is some uncertainty there, the Crimson Tide still have a pair of preseason All-SEC first team tackles in juniors Alex Leatherwood and Jedrick Wills.

Despite losing three key pieces, Bama has plenty of talent to fill those holes and should be on par with a line that only allowed 16 total sacks in 15 games last year.

 

Defense

As usual, Bama had one of the country’s top defenses in 2018. However, the Crimson Tide had five defenders drafted — four of whom were on the front seven.

Replacing star defensive lineman Quinnen Williams’ nearly 20 tackles for a loss from last year won’t be easy. Massive 6-foot-7, 312-pound end Raekwon Davis seems to be next in line in the long list of dominant Bama linemen.

Davis is perhaps the most physically imposing player in the SEC and after recording 55 tackles and 5.5 TFLs in 2018, the physical specimen is one of four Alabama defenders named to the preseason All-SEC first team.

Junior LaBryan Ray is another member of the defensive line who, despite only making one start last year, managed to record 39 tackles, six TFLs and 2.5 sacks. Now expected to be a full-time stater, Ray could be destined for stardom.

Two star linebackers — Christian Miller and Mack Wilson are now in the NFL. But perhaps the best of the bunch last year is the 6-foot-3, 235-pound rising junior from Baton Rouge, Dylan Moses.

Moses led the Crimson Tide with 86 total tackles last year while also compiling 10 TFLs and 3.5 sacks. 

Moses has a chance to be the best linebacker in the SEC and a future first-round draft pick. 

The former five-star recruit was named to the preseason All-SEC first team. Joining him is 6-foot-3, 259-pound senior Anfernee Jennings.

Jennings, with his combo of size, power and athleticism, dominated opposing offensive lines last year with 50 tackles, 13 TFLs, 5.5 sacks and 11 passes defended. Jennings might be Alabama’s most talented defender and should work well next to Moses.

The Crimson Tide were one of five SEC teams to allow fewer than 200 passing yards per game in 2018. Star safety Deionte Thompson is the only major loss for the Bama secondary. With all the returning talent, the unit should continue to perform at an elite level.

Senior cornerback Trevon Diggs rounds out the Tide’s preseason All-SEC first team performers and has the talent to be the best player at his position in a league with several lockdown corners.

A 6-foot-2, 207-pound frame coupled with top-level athleticism certainly doesn’t hurt, but despite only recording 20 tackles last year, a big breakout year is expected for Diggs.

Senior Shyheim Carter is a veteran at the “star” position, where he registered 43 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, two INTs (both returned for a touchdown) and 10 passes defended. 

Carter may not get the attention that Diggs gets but the preseason All-SEC third-team selection is an essential cog in the Alabama defense.

Sophomore corner Patrick Surtain Jr. is younger than both Diggs and Carter but after a freshman All-American campaign in 2018, the 6-foot-2, 203-pound corner is expected to be a top corner in the SEC.

Preseason All-SEC second team honors were awarded to Surtain and if the former consensus five-star prospect can build off last year’s success, he’ll just add to Bama’s aleady impressive list of cornerbacks.

At safety, junior Xavier McKinney is yet another certified star in the Bama secondary. McKinney posted 74 tackles to go along with six TFLs, three sacks and two INTs while being a consistent force at the strong safety spot.

Like many of his teammates, McKinney enters 2019 with All-SEC expectations. If the Roswell, Georgia native can improve from last year, an All-SEC team appearance is likely.

 

Special Teams

The one area where the Crimson Tide isn't seemingly overflowing with talent is on special teams. Bama kickers, in a combined effort, missed nine extra point attempts in 2018 and last year’s starter, sophomore Joseph Bulovas, missed six of them.

Bulovas hit a respectable 14 of 18 of his field goal attempts but if recent history is any indicator, place kickers for the Crimson Tide will be the team’s kryptonite.

Bama does have an electric player in the return game, though. Jaylen Waddle is not only one of the best receivers in the SEC but also arguably the conference’s top punt returner.

Waddle has elite speed — a skill he used last year to return 16 punts for nearly an average of 15 yards.

 

Overall

If Auburn manages to get by rival Georgia, the attention turns to arguably the nation’s most talented team in Alabama.

Luckily for the Tigers, the game will be played at home where the Tigers upset their rival in 2017.

The Tide is so talented it’s honestly hard to pick apart the roster. Elite players at nearly every position and a record 21 players selected to the preseason All-SEC roster should show the caliber of team Saban has brewing up in Tuscaloosa.

Tagovailoa joins Clemson QB Tevor Lawrence as the front-runners for the Heisman trophy and WR Jerry Jeudy should help Tagovailoa in giving Alabama a strong passing game.

Davis, Moses, Jennings and Diggs give the Crimson Tide stars on all three levels of the defense and the team should continue to shut down opposing offenses.

Having 10 players drafted could hurt the Tide more than some people might expect, but just as he has done for the past decade — Saban will just retool with top recruits.

Clemson showed the world that Bama isn’t the unbeatable Goliath that many thought they were. However, a return to the college football playoff is probably likely unless the team is hit with injuries or another true contender arises in the SEC West.

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