Fresh off of a BCS National Championship victory, the Alabama Crimson Tide is already looking ahead to defending their title for the third year in a row.
With a combined record of 61-7 since 2008, the Tide is hoping for yet another year of excellence behind head coach Nick Saban. This year also includes a rematch with the only team to have beaten them last season, Texas A&M.
Needless to say, there is much to look forward to in 2013 for Alabama fans. After losing several key players to the NFL draft, there will be many youngsters in the spotlight right away for Bama. These are just some of the guys who’ll have to show up big in games against teams like LSU and A&M.
Here are my game-by-game predictions for the 2013 Alabama Crimson Tide.
Alabama leads series 10-1
The Crimson Tide will open up their 2013 campaign with a road game against Virginia Tech. Rebounding from a rough 2012 season (7-6), the Hokies will struggle against Alabama’s young offense and will fall behind early.
After ending the year as one of the country’s hottest players, A.J. McCarron looks to continue his winning ways in his final season at Alabama. McCarron should be able to have much success against a Hokie defense that was ranked 32nd in the country last season.
Bama’s defense should also have an easy day on the job against a struggling V-Tech offense which was ranked 83rd in the country in points for last season. If the Tide’s defense will struggle at all, it will be against senior quarterback for V-Tech, Logan Thomas.
Thomas was the team’s leading passer and rusher a season ago, and has enough speed to extend plays for the Hokies. His 6’6”, 260 lbs. frame makes him a tough tackle for some defenders, but Bama’s defense should be alright.
While the play of incoming 5-star freshman Kendall Fuller will certainly help their secondary, it won’t be enough to slow down McCarron.
Prediction: Alabama wins in a tune-up game of an opener; 45-7
Manziel escapes an Alabama defender to extend the play for the Aggies
Alabama leads series 3-2
Last season, freshman sensation and eventual Heisman winner Johnny Manziel torched Alabama in an impressive victory. Manziel accounted for a whopping 345 yards and two touchdowns against an Alabama defense that had no answers for Johnny Football.
It’s hard to think that Nick Saban would allow Manziel to have another day like he had the last time they met. Despite Saban’s best efforts, though, I think Alabama will lose to Texas A&M for the second year in a row.
Although Saban will certainly have something planned for Manziel, I don’t think it will be enough. Not only will Manziel be a wiser, more savvy player come game day, he will also have a new toy on offense.
The Aggies were able to reel in several talented players, most notably top-ranked receiver Ricky Seals-Jones. A big presence on the outside at 6’5”, 220 lbs., seals-Jones should be be able to make an immediate impact for the Aggies.
Another incoming freshman who will likely see playing time against the Tide is four-star defensive recruit Justin Manning. The 6’2”, 275 lbs. Manning will be a tough matchup for a young Bama offensive line without Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones.
Prediction: The Aggies pull out a tough win against Alabama; 38-31
T.J. Yeldon and Chance Warmack celebrate after a touchdown
Teams have never played
Following a tough loss to Manziel and company, Alabama will rebound against Colorado State. Bryant-Denny Stadium will once again revitalize the Crimson Tide who will cruise to an easy victory over the Rams.
CSU was abysmal in 2012, posting a 4-8 record. Not only did the Rams not have a 1,000-yard rusher, but was also without a 1,000-yard receiver.
Alabama will have a chip on their back following their first loss of the season, and Saban will likely pound on the Rams because of it. Saban will try to make a statement against a clearly lesser team to prove the A&M loss was just a bad day at the office.
Prediction: Alabama trounces Colorado State; 45-6
A.J. McCarron eyes his receiver against the Rebels pass rush
Alabama leads series 46-9-2
Back on track after a win against Colorado State, Alabama will continue their success against an Ole Miss team that struggled in 2012 (7-6). The Rebels have dropped six straight to Alabama, and it will be seven after this game.
Although the Rebels will put up a good fight through a talented young defense, it will be in vain. However there is one key defensive recruit for the Rebels that could make an impact in this game, incoming freshman DE Robert Nkemdiche.
Given his size and natural ability, Nkemdiche will likely get some playing time sooner than later for Ole Miss. The nation’s top-ranked player could help change the game for the Aggies defensively against a high-scoring Bama offense.
While Ole Miss will be an improved squad in 2013, they will lose to an Alabama team that is starting to gain some momentum at this point.
Prediction: Alabama wins confidently; 35-17
Norwood hauls in a pass from A.J. McCarron for a big gain
Alabama leads series 1-0
Following their game against Ole Miss, the Crimson Tide will take on the Georgia State Panthers at home.
The only meeting between these two teams took place in 2010; Bama dismantled the Panthers 63-7. The Crimson Tide will easily dominate another less-than-competitive team as they approach the midway point of the season.
Depending on the score, Saban will likely pull the starters after the first half, maybe at the end of the second quarter if it’s really ugly.
Prediction: The Crimson Ride rolls to an easy victory; 48-3
A.J. McCarron prepares to give the play to the Bama offense
Alabama leads series 35-2-1
The Crimson Tide will travel to Commonwealth Stadium to take on the Kentucky Wildcats following their beating of Georgia State.
The Tide have won four in a row against the Wildcats and will extend that streak to five after this game. Kentucky was virtually irrelevant in 2012 as they finished 2-10 and allowed 27-plus points in each game.
McCarron and the offense will have a field day against the Wildcats en route to their fourth straight victory.
Prediction: Alabama enjoys an easy victory before their SEC gauntlet; 42-10
Vinny Sunseri lays a hit on the Arkansas passer
Alabama leads series 13-8
Alabama will return home to take on their SEC rivals the Arkansas Razorbacks.
The Razorbacks were a tougher team than their record showed in 2012 (4-8), but will be starting a new quarterback given Tyler Wilson’s departure to the NFL. There will be growing pains with whoever is the new starter for the Razorbacks, and he will likely struggle against Alabama’s stingy defense.
Although Alabama shut out the Razorbacks last year (52-0), Arkansas will be a tougher task this year. The Tide will overcome the underdog Razorbacks in the first of four consecutive SEC match ups for Bama.
Prediction: Alabama rolls through Arkansas; 48-14
Amari Cooper hauls in a big pass vs. the Vols defense
Alabama leads series 49-38-7
Alabama takes on the Tennessee Volunteers riding a six game win streak against the Vols. Tennessee will struggle to find a spark offensively with the losses of QB Tyler Bray, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, and WR Justin Hunter.
Between a fledgling offense and a less-than-intimidating defense, the Vols will fall to the Tide in an ugly one. McCarron will air the ball out early and often to Amari Cooper and Kevin Norwood leading to big points early. As the game progresses, T.J. Yeldon will grind it out for the Tide and finish the game strong.
Prediction: Bama gives Tennessee their 50 lashes; 50-7
T.J. Yeldon breaks a would-be tackle
Alabama leads series 47-25-5
LSU and Alabama has been one of the greatest rivalries in college football as of late. Both teams have traded big victories over the years, with Alabama winning the past two.
The Tigers will be a tremendous handful for Alabama as always, especially with the development of QB Zach Mettenberger. LSU will also be a talented squad defensively even with DE Barkevious Mingo gone to the NFL.
Les Miles' squad were able to sign several top recruits, namely 5-star defenders DE Frank Herron and DB Tre’Davious White. These players will be two of many who could change the game for the Tigers come game day.
If LSU’s defense is able to keep Alabama’s offense from compounding scoring drives, then they will have a good chance at beating them.
This will be the toughest test for the Tide since their meeting with Texas A&M in the early part of the year, but they will prove victorious. In what will turn out to be another classic matchup of these two programs, Alabama will squeak by in another close win.
Prediction: Alabama escapes with a victory; 24-17
A.J. McCarron heaves the ball downfield for the Tide
Alabama leads the series 75-18-3
Alabama has won five straight against the Mississippi State Bulldogs and will continue that streak this year. This will be a good game for Alabama as the Bulldogs are always a tough team to play late in the season.
While Alabama surely has the better offense and defense, it is imperative they don’t overlook the Bulldogs. If there is a team that could possibly upset Alabama it will be Mississippi State. They have good chemistry on offense behind QB Tyler Russell and can also put up points quickly.
While the Bulldogs will put up a fight, it won’t be enough to take down the defending champs.
Prediction: Alabama outlasts the Bulldogs; 41-28
A.J. McCarron celebrates after a touchdown
Teams have never played
Closing in on the end of the season and a potential trip to the SEC Championship Game, Alabama takes on the Chattanooga Mocs in one last tune-up game before the Iron Bowl.
A.J. McCarron and the offense will have an easy day vs. the Mocs’ defense in preparation for Auburn the following week. Conversely, Alabama’s defense may have its hands full with Chattanooga QB Jacob Huesman.
In 2012, Huesman was the leading passer and also the leading rusher (by a lot) for Chattanooga. He accounted for 2,821 total yards and 20 touchdowns in 2012 for the Mocs and was their sole bright spot offensively.
While Huesman may be an interesting prospect to watch in the coming years, he alone will not be more than a minor bump in the road for Bama.
Prediction: Alabama wins easily despite Huesman’s attempted heroics; 38-7
Saban and former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik shake hands after the game
Alabama leads series 42-34-1
The Iron Bowl is one of the best rivalry games in all of sports. The proverbial tug-of-war between these two schools is possibly the most storied feud of any generation in any sport.
The Auburn Tigers are starting a completely new regime under newly appointed head coach Gus Malzahn and will not likely be much competition when the Tide comes to town. Auburn had one of the worst offenses in the country a year ago (114th) and wasn’t exactly explosive on offense either.
While I do believe Malzahn’s hiring is a step in the right direction for Auburn, I don’t see them beating Alabama in this game.
Prediction: Alabama finishes another season strong against their in-state rivals; 49-10
Nick Saban leaves the field after winning the National Championship
With the way that Nick Saban has coached Alabama the past few years, it’s hard to see them taking a big step back in 2013. It seems like every year that Bama loses a great player, an even better one takes his spot.
Whether or not Alabama will even make it to the National Championship Game in 2014 is still up in the air, but it’s not hard to imagine. With a young offense returning several starters and a defense that is always consistent under the tutelage of Kirby Smart, Alabama definitely should be in the conversation.
Lots of teams have won back-to-back National Championships, but no one has ever won three in a row. Alabama has a chance to do that.
Overall Record Prediction: 11-1