With college football just two and half weeks away from kickoff, I have been thinking about how different the build up is for this season. The Florida State Seminoles are the preseason favorite this year and most believe they have a good chance to repeat. Which brings me to the team that has dominated college football for the past four to five years. Since 2009,the Alabama Crimson Tide have won three National Titles in seven seasons under head coach Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide bring in the #1 recruiting class year in and year out and have one of the best coached teams in college football. But this season has a little different feel to it because of the uncertainty around the team. So I ask, Is Alabama’s run of dominance coming to an end?
The beginning of the end may have been in January when the Crimson Tide lost to the Oklahoma Sooners in the Sugar Bowl. The Tide had just came off a devastating loss to their rival Auburn who would go on to play for the National Championship. The team also had to deal with Sooners head coach Bob Stoops, who was determined to have his team ready so he could use this as a chance to throw a shot towards the SEC. So unlike the 2008 Sugar Bowl when Alabama didn’t care to be there, the Tide were going to take this game seriously.Alabama wanted to win and they played like it, but they were exposed instead.
With Auburn in the National Title game, Saban felt more pressure from the Sugar Bowl loss and began to panic a little. It all started when Doug Nussmeier left the program to become Michigan’s offensive coordinator. This caused one of the most desperate moves I’ve seen Saban make while at Alabama. Alabama hired former USC head coach Lane Kiffin who was fired earlier in the season. I think we all remember the mark that Kiffin left in the SEC when he was the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers. Kiffin ruffled a few feathers with a lot of coaches and fans in the league including Saban.
Another move of desperation on Saban’s part was letting DL D.J. Pettway back on the team. Pettway and three other teammates were involved in a robbery of two Alabama students back in 2013. Saban would kick all four players off the team but a year later, Pettway is back. The university claimed that Pettway was only suspended but I understood why Saban did it. Defensive line depth took a huge hit this off-season with Ed Stinson and Jeoffrey Pagan being seniors and Adrian Hubbard declaring early for the draft. Saban needed a player who could come in help immediately and Pettway, who already knows the defense, can do just that. One thing that is lost in all the recruiting success the past two to three years is how Alabama has missed on getting a great quarterback. Alabama fans will probably say that no one wanted to come because they knew that A.J. McCarron was the starter, which could be true but I doubt it.
Which brings me to Florida State transfer Jacob Coker. After losing the QB battle to Jameis Winston, Coker decided that he would transfer back to his home state to play. Most of you have heard that Coker almost beat out Winston in fall practice but I don’t believe that for one second. Now Coker comes to Tuscaloosa as the savior of the Crimson Tide. Fans are expecting Coker to pick up where McCarron left off but this 2014 team is not like the teams in the past. For the first time since Saban’s first season, Alabama has questions at many positions. Running back and wide receiver are the strengths of this team because of the talent they have. But the offensive line is a work in progress. The 2013 offensive line did not play the “smash mouth, run the ball down your throat” football we were accustomed to seeing. I believe this year will be no different as the Tide lost its best lineman Cyrus Kouandijo and senior guard Anthony Steen. Five star freshman Cam Robinson is supposed to step into Kouandijo’s spot, but the replacement for Steen is still up for grabs. On the defense, gone is All-American and field general C.J. Mosley and I think his departure will be felt the most. Mosley was the QB of the defense and got everyone lined up where they were supposed to be. With him gone you have a lot of talent, but no experience at the position besides Trey DePriest and Denzel Duval. The secondary took a major hit with Eddie Jackson tearing his ACL this off-season. Now you have to count on true freshmen Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey to help fill that spot.
This 2014 team will have a lot to deal with this season because the fans’ expectations are sky-high.The media picked Alabama to win the SEC this season but I have my doubts about that because of how good the SEC West is this season. LSU is down this season, but Auburn is loaded on offense again this season and look to be the Tide’s biggest threat. Mississippi State probably has the best team they have had under Dan Mullen and look to be a threat as well. Ole Miss looks like a team that could cause problems as well. Remember this date, September 20 2014. The Tide play the Florida Gators and while I don’t think the Gators will win the game, the physicality of it will be off the charts.
Beating Auburn is important every season, but it’s particularly important this season. The Tigers gave Alabama fits last season and judging by what both teams have coming back, the Tigers could easily go into Tuscaloosa and come out with a win. If that happens and I think it will, we will have seen the end of the Alabama dominance in college football.