Alabama Football: Early Game-by-Game Predictions for the 2014 Season

Christopher WalshCollege Football National ColumnistMay 26, 2014

Alabama Football: Early Game-by-Game Predictions for the 2014 Season

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    Alabama will be very good in 2014-15. What else is new?
    Alabama will be very good in 2014-15. What else is new?Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    When it comes to predicting out a season beforehand, never mind in May, there are two very important considerations regarding the University of Alabama football team under Nick Saban:

    1. Even though he’s won four national championships, Saban has only had one team finish with a perfect record (2009).
    2. Despite that, Alabama has been favored in 54 consecutive games.

    The last time Alabama was considered an underdog was the 2009 SEC Championship, when it faced Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow at Florida. That was three titles ago, never mind being part of a different decade.

    Overall, Alabama’s record since 2008 is 72-9.

    Nevertheless, the Crimson Tide lost their last two games of the 2013-14 season: at rival Auburn and then against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, where they committed four turnovers that resulted in 28 points for the Sooners, who pulled out the 45-31 victory.

    “We created a lot of the adversity that we faced ourselves in some of the things that we did and didnt do,” Nick Saban said after the game.

    “We didnt play very well on defense in the first half. We didnt play very well on third down. We didnt get off the field in 3rd-and-long three or four times in the game, which were critical factors in the game,” he continued.

    Anyone want to bet against Saban now? Alabama is already considered a huge favorite for the season opener against West Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta on Aug. 30.

    Perhaps the better question is which game is Alabama most likely to lose in 2014-15?

Aug. 30 vs. West Virginia

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    West Virginia has never faced Alabama in football.
    West Virginia has never faced Alabama in football.Craig Cunningham/Associated Press

    Dana Holgorsen’s team is just 6-14 in its last 20 games and didn’t play in a bowl last season. West Virginia also lost defensive coordinator Keith Patterson to Arizona State.

    Known as an offensive team, the Mountaineers averaged 26.3 points per game and 5.5 yards per play last season. Considering Alabama’s unsettled secondary, one would think that’s where West Virginia will try to challenge it the most.

    However, Alabama may have a huge advantage with its run game, so look for T.J. Yeldon to score a couple of touchdowns and for Derrick Henry to get one as well in the first meeting of these schools.

     

    Alabama 35, West Virginia 13

Sept. 6 vs. Florida Atlantic

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    Florida Atlantic's last visit to Bryant-Denny Stadium didn't go very well.
    Florida Atlantic's last visit to Bryant-Denny Stadium didn't go very well.USA TODAY Sports

    As far as home openers go, this isn’t a good one.

    Despite the ongoing scandal surrounding former coach Carl Pelini, FAU won its final four straight games under interim coach Brian Wright to finish 6-6 last season. However, school officials then gave the job to former Wisconsin assistant Charlie Partridge.

    On offense, the name to know is quarterback Jaquez Johnson, while the Owls secondary leads the defense. 

    Alabama will again try to run the ball a lot, take a significant lead and get some playing time to numerous reserves.

      

    Alabama 45, Florida Atlantic 10

Sept. 13 vs. Southern Miss

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    When it defeated UAB last season, Southern Miss snapped a 23-game losing streak.
    When it defeated UAB last season, Southern Miss snapped a 23-game losing streak.USA TODAY Sports

    If Alabama doesn’t have a starting quarterback established yet, this will be the final Saturday there are any lingering doubts. The guess here is that it’ll be Florida State transfer Jacob Coker, but he still has to win the job and prove to coaches that he’s ready to take over.

    Todd Monken’s first season at Southern Miss was a rough one, as in 1-11, with the lone win in the finale against UAB to snap a 23-game losing streak.

    With Florida next up on the schedule this will be a prime spot for a letdown against a motivated opponent, at least for a half. Alabama then pulls away.

     

    Alabama 38, Southern Miss 6

Sept. 20 vs. Florida

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    Nick Saban has never lost to one of his former assistant coaches.
    Nick Saban has never lost to one of his former assistant coaches.Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

    The Gators defense was very good last season and returns nine starters. However, the offense was terrible, and offensive coordinator Brent Pease was replaced by Kurt Roper. 

    Florida opens the season with three straight home games—against Idaho, Eastern Michigan and Kentucky—before visiting Bryant-Denny Stadium for its first big test. Look for Will Muschamp to have his team ready for what could be a defensive showdown.

    While the Gators may still be a year away, Alabama has a ton of offensive weapons that will eventually be the difference, but this will be the game that sets the Crimson Tide up for a fall.  

     

    Alabama 26, Florida 20

Oct. 4 at Ole Miss

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    Alabama might find things to be a little tougher at Ole Miss this year.
    Alabama might find things to be a little tougher at Ole Miss this year.Butch Dill/Getty Images

    After back-to-back trips to Tuscaloosa, Ole Miss finally gets Alabama at home, and the three previous games on the schedule are Vanderbilt, Louisiana-Lafayette and Memphis.

    The Rebels are hoping last year’s top-notch recruiting class comes of age and they return 14 of 22 starters. Bo Wallace is one of the few established returning quarterbacks in the conference, but the offensive line has some question marks.

    Alabama won last year’s game 25-0, but it was only up 9-0 at halftime when T.J. Yeldon’s 68-yard touchdown run broke the game open.

    Don’t be surprised if the first real road game is similar, only closer, as the best time to pull off an upset of this Alabama team may be during the early part of the season.

     

    Ole Miss 24, Alabama 23

Oct. 11 at Arkansas

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    Alabama has won the last two games against Arkansas by a combined score of 104-0.
    Alabama has won the last two games against Arkansas by a combined score of 104-0.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Arkansas lost its last nine games of 2013 but played better down the stretch—losing by only 10 at Ole Miss, in overtime to Mississippi State and 31-27 at LSU. Nevertheless, Bret Bielema’s team might see a lot of improvement, and the Razorbacks could still finish last in the SEC West.

    The strength of the defense should be the line, as end Trey Flowers returned for his final season and former Crimson Tide recruit Darius Philon is being hailed by some as primed for a breakout season.

    The Crimson Tide won’t pull off another 52-0 victory like last year or record 532 yards of total offense, but Alabama still has too many offensive weapons for Arkansas.

     

    Alabama 31, Arkansas 12

Oct. 18 vs. Texas A&M

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    Alabama doesn't figure to be as welcoming when Texas A&M comes back to Bryant-Denny Stadium.
    Alabama doesn't figure to be as welcoming when Texas A&M comes back to Bryant-Denny Stadium.Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Alabama will reach the midway point of the season feeling its best football has yet to be played. Texas A&M will be coming off back-to-back games against the division’s Mississippi schools, which will go a long way toward determining its final place in the standings.

    Without Johnny Manziel, Jake Matthews and Mike Evans, A&M figures to take a step back, but while the Aggies still have a lot to work with offensively, the defense remains suspect even if 10 starters return.

    In eight SEC games last season, A&M allowed 499.1 yards and 36.5 points per game, including the 49-42 shootout against the Crimson Tide.

    This one won’t be as close.

     

    Alabama 33, Texas A&M 13

Oct. 25 at Tennessee

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    Alabama has won seven straight in the Third Weekend in October.
    Alabama has won seven straight in the Third Weekend in October.USA TODAY Sports

    If Alabama is going to make a significant move in the starting lineup for the stretch run, this is when it’ll probably happen. The Crimson Tide will subsequently have a bye week and then begin the final month of the regular season at LSU.

    The guy to watch could be cornerback Eddie Jackson, who sustained a torn ACL during the spring and hopes to come back during the season. The very early guess here is that he won’t be ready at the start of training camp, but he might start getting some reserve minutes during the first half of the season.

    Tennessee has a young team and needs to replace every starter on both lines, but it just doesn’t match up with the Crimson Tide. For the eighth straight year Alabama will light cigars to celebrate the Third Weekend in October.

     

    Alabama 42, Tennessee 10

Nov. 8 at LSU

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    Alabama has won three straight against LSU going back to the 2012 BCS National Championship Game.
    Alabama has won three straight against LSU going back to the 2012 BCS National Championship Game.USA TODAY Sports

    The way Les Miles recruits, LSU is consistently the one opponent that can match up with Alabama physically. Granted, the Tigers lost a lot in the NFL draft again, including all of the key players in the passing game (Zach Mettenberger, Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry), yet like the Crimson Tide, they have the pieces in place not just to rebuild, but to reload.

    Running back Leonard Fournette appears poised for a breakout season, and LSU returns four starters on the offensive line, but one has to wonder if all the recent departures might finally catch up to John Chavis’ defense. 

    Death Valley is the toughest place to play in college football, and Alabama will have a first-year starting quarterback, but the game is almost always decided in the trenches.

     

    Alabama 20, LSU 17

Nov. 15 vs. Mississippi State

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    Mississippi State is always a tough game for Alabama, especially after playing LSU.
    Mississippi State is always a tough game for Alabama, especially after playing LSU.USA TODAY Sports

    Alabama hasn’t lost to Mississippi State since 2007, but the LSU hangover is very real, as evidenced by last year’s 20-7 victory in Starkville.

    While quarterback Dak Prescott will make a name for himself this season, and nearly everyone is back on the Bulldogs defense, including lineman Chris Jones and linebacker Benardrick McKinney, Alabama’s defense will begin to really come together. 

    The headlines, though, will be primarily about T.J. Yeldon becoming Alabama’s all-time leading rusher, breaking the record of 3,565 yards set by Shaun Alexander (1996-99).

     

    Alabama 22, Mississippi State 13

Nov. 22 vs. Western Carolina

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    Alabama's last game with Western Carolina had a 49-0 final score.
    Alabama's last game with Western Carolina had a 49-0 final score.USA TODAY Sports

    Here’s all you have to know about this matchup: The last time these two teams played in 2012, when the Catamounts were 1-10, the Crimson Tide won 49-0.

    Alabama out-gained Western Carolina 463-163 in total yards, outrushed it 300-70 and didn’t punt until the fourth quarter.

    Western Carolina was a little better last season, finishing 2-10, and its 27-24 overtime victory over Elon was the programs first against a Division I opponent (FCS or FBS) since facing The Citadel on Oct. 2, 2010.

     

    Alabama 45, Western Carolina 0

Nov. 29 vs. Auburn

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    Think Alabama is looking forward to getting another shot at Auburn?
    Think Alabama is looking forward to getting another shot at Auburn?USA TODAY Sports

    Anyone who thinks Alabama won’t be foaming at the mouth for this rematch is clueless about the Iron Bowl. All year long, this is the game the Crimson Tide players have been hearing about: how they blew a chance at history by getting beat on the biggest play college football has seen in years—a 100-plus-yard return off a missed field goal as time expired.

    Although Nick Marshall is back at quarterback with four of the starting offensive linemen, two key departures were running back Tre Mason and left tackle Greg Robinson. Yet the key for the Tigers will be the defense, which allowed 29.6 points in nine SEC games last season and lost end Dee Ford, tackle Nosa Eguae, linebacker Jake Holland and cornerback Chris Davis.

    If coordinator Ellis Johnson can do his magic again, this game might decide the SEC West once more. The guess here, though, is that Alabama’s momentum will take it back to the SEC Championship Game, where it’ll be playing to secure a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

     

    Alabama 28, Auburn 20

      

    Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

    Follow @CrimsonWalsh.