The Alabama Crimson Tide opened the past two seasons with blowout victories over Michigan and Virginia Tech, covering big point spreads on both occasions.
Bama will try to do it again when it opens this 2014 season against the West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday afternoon at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Point spread: The Crimson Tide opened as 25-point favorites; the total was 55.5 at the Georgia Dome, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).
Odds Shark computer prediction: 48.3-19.4 Crimson Tide
Why the West Virginia Mountaineers can cover the spread
The Mountaineers are coming off their first losing season since 2001, but they've got 13 starters back, including two quarterbacks with starting experience, last year's top three receivers and seven on defense, including six of the back eight.
Even with an offense that struggled at times last year, West Virginia hit the 30-point mark half a dozen times. And as underdogs of three touchdowns or more, the Mountaineers covered two out of three games last year. West Virginia may not pull the upset here, but it has the ability to keep things close.
Why the Alabama Crimson Tide can cover the spread
The Tide return 12 starters this season, but, as always, top-notch talent is in place to fill the holes. Florida State transfer Jake Coker and senior backup Blake Sims are still battling for the starting QB spot, but, either way, their main responsibility will be to hand the ball off to Heisman candidate T.J. Yeldon, who will be running behind an offensive line with three starters back.
Defensively, only five starters return, but two years ago, when that unit also had just five returning starters, it held foes to 11 points per game. Last year, Alabama was favored by more than three touchdowns eight times and covered the spread in five of those contests.
And it is 4-1 ATS opening the season the past five years.
It may have holes to fill at quarterback and on defense, but Alabama is a program that reloads rather than rebuilds. The Tide will contend for a spot in the new four-team College Football Playoff this season, and they are currently one of two teams favored to make the mini-tournament.
West Virginia, on the other hand, may be a program on the decline. The move to the offensive-minded Big 12 hasn't gone too well so far, as the Mountaineers can't simply outgun foes like they used to do in the Big East.
However, in this spot, if the passing game can produce 21 points, West Virginia has a good chance to cover this spread. So the pick for this matchup is to take the points with the dog.
- The total has gone over in six of West Virginia's last seven games
- Alabama 4-1 ATS past five openers
- Over is 9-2 past 11 West Virginia games in September
Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates, and get the free odds tracker app.