Is it just me, or is this getting a little boring? Alabama just claimed their fourth National Championship of the decade-long Nick Saban era, and they have been close to one every year they haven't won. They are like a robot program, sent from space to drain the world of national titles. The storyline here is very familiar by this point - they have lost seven guys to the NFL Draft, including all-World running back Derrick Henry, and they need to find a starting QB again, yet on the strength of yet another top-ranked recruiting class they have the parts in place to reload without missing a beat.
They are the most likely title winners yet again. So, is it warranted?
Key Additions and Departures
The team lost pieces that would cripple lesser squads. Henry and backup running back Kenyan Drake are both gone. Star center Ryan Kelly went in the first round of the draft. Defensive tackles A'Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed both left. So did cornerback Cyrus Jones and linebacker Reggie Ragland. That's seven guys who were studs on this team and will start in the NFL in most cases. And then QB Jake Coker graduated and is gone, too.
It doesn't even matter, though - not at a recruit factory like this. Henry will be replaced by 2016 top running back recruit B.J. Emmons, or top earlier recruits Bo Scarbrough or Damien Harris, or one of the other endless backs they have. The quarterback race is wide open. However, with a top recruit from each of the last four years contending for the starting gig, they will be just fine. It's not like this is a program that relies on fireworks from their QB to succeed anyway - and the winner will have a ridiculously-strong group of pass catchers to help them out.
The offensive line requires some help, and Kelly is a big loss, but the depth and coaching talent is there to make it work out just fine. Defensively, the team won't have quite the depth they had last year - especially up front - but they still have the personnel to drive things this year. Ragland would normally be a very concerning loss, but look for Reuben Foster to step in seamlessly in the leadership role.
This team has the pieces to be the best team in the country.
Alabama Crimson Tide Schedule Analysis
The season opens with a very high-profile game in Dallas against USC. At first glance it's a dream matchup. It's hard to imagine that USC will be anywhere near as ready as Alabama, though. The Tide have made a habit of setting up and then dominating these big season openers, and it should be the same again.
The rest of the nonconference schedule is, as usual, a joke. Western Kentucky in Week 2, Kent State two weeks later, and Chattanooga in the second-to-last game of the year - not anything even remotely close to a challenge anywhere there.
Conference play opens with a bang - the Tide travel to Ole Miss, the school that has beaten them the last two times they have played. The Tide will be starved for revenge. Kent State and then Kentucky provide some relief, and trips to Arkansas and Tennessee are tough but manageable. Then they return home for a game against a Texas A&M team that isn't nearly as scary as they once were. Next up is the last likely big test at LSU - a team also gunning for a title shot. Survive that and it's a downhill roll to the finish line - at home against Mississippi State, Chattanooga and an Auburn team that could have some issues this year.
The concern for the schedule is that the toughest games are all on the road, but there is no reason that the Tide can't be expected to win any particular game and have a decent chance of winning all of them - or at least all but one, which they have proven is good enough.
2016-17 Alabama Betting Odds and Trends
BetOnline has installed the Tide as the +550 favorites to win it all, ahead of LSU, Clemson and Michigan all at +800. Bovada has their regular-season win total set at just 9.5, with the "over" the heavy favorite at -150.
Not surprisingly, given all the public attention, they were not a great bet last year - either for or against. They were 8-7 ATS on the season, so betting on them consistently just led you to break even, but betting against them was a loser. Because of that stout defense, though, the "under" was attractive - they went under in nine of 15 games.
2016-17 Alabama Predictions and College Football Picks
I like this team to win 11 games, play in, and likely win, the SEC Championship Game and make it back to the playoff again. There isn't an obvious weakness. And though they don't have the depth they had last year, things are hardly at the point of concern - other teams would still kill to have their depth. They're going to be a force yet again - no matter how dull that is getting to be.
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