#1 Alabama 2018 Football Preview

Alabama Crimson Tide
Overall Rank: #1
#1 SEC
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Alabama got revenge on Clemson in the playoffs last year following their loss to the Tigers in the title game the previous season. But the Crimson Tide had to take on conference foe Georgia in the 2017 championship game. And that was another thrilling contest with Alabama slipping past the Bulldogs 26-23 in overtime. But that was last year and now Coach Nick Saban will have his team ready to look for another finish as the best team in college football.
2017 Record: 13-1, 7-1
2017 Bowl: National Championship Game vs. Georgia (W 26-23)
Coach: Nick Saban (132-20 at Alabama, 218-62-1 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Locksley
Defensive Coordinator: Tosh Lupoi
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Damien Harris, RB, 1,000 yards
Passing: Jalen Hurts, QB, 2,081 yards
Receiving: Jerry Jeudy, WR, 264 yards
Tackles: Raekwon Davis, DE, 69
Sacks: Raekwon Davis, DE, 8.5
Interceptions: Mack Wilson, LB, 4
Other Key Returnees: QB Tua Tagovailoa, OL Jonah Williams, DE Isaiah Buggs
Key Losses: RB Bo Scarbrough, WR Calvin Ridley. OL Bradley Bozeman, DL Da’Ron Payne, DL Da’Shawn Hand, LB Rashaan Evans, S Minkah Fitzpatrick, S Ronnie Harrison, CB Levi Wallace, P JK Scott
This has the potential to be one of the best offenses Alabama has ever seen. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has been a starter for the last two seasons, passing for 2,081 yards and 17 touchdowns with just one interception last year. He also ran for 855 yards and eight scores. But it was then freshman Tua Tagovailoa who led the comeback in the National Championship Game. They have been fighting for the starting spot all spring and fall and it is possible that both see action early in the season before Coach Saban settles on a starter. Whoever wins the job will have a ton of talent around them. Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and DeVonta Smith are not proven wide receivers, but the three super sophomores are extremely talented. Damien Harris will again be the team’s top running back after rushing for 1,000 yards in 2017. Sophomore Najee Harris will have to spend another season as the second back, but he should get more than 61 carries this year.
Technically just two starters are back, but Alabama has a defense with more experience than it seems. On the line, Isaiah Buggs is a returning starter, but sack leader Raekwon Davis is the leader of the unit after tallying 8.5 sacks and 69 tackles in 2017. Linebacker Anfernee Jennings is the other returning starter, but there is plenty of experience around him. Mack Wilson and Dylan Moses gained valuable experience last season despite some injuries and Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis went into last season with high expectations before suffering injuries of their own. If the unit can stay healthy, the middle of the Alabama defense will be in great shape. The secondary has bigger concerns. Junior Deionte Thompson, who started two games last year, suddenly finds himself in a leadership role at strong safety. There is potential at cornerback with Trevon Diggs and junior college transfer Saivion Smith, but the Crimson Tide will need some freshmen to add depth.
The Bottom Line:
It looks like Alabama may be better on offense than defense. But this is Alabama and that will not end up being the case. But if the offense can do enough to cover for any inconsistencies suffered by the defense, than this will be the team to beat in the SEC yet again. The Tide begins the 2018 campaign with a game against Louisville in Orlando, Florida on September 1st. The toughest of the conference games do not come until later in the season. A November that features games against LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn will decide whether or not Alabama gets another shot at the playoffs.
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 250.6 (13th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 193.4 (91, 9)
Total Offense: 444.1 (29, 4)
Scoring Offense: 37.1 (15, 2)
Rushing Defense: 94.7 (1, 1)
Pass Defense: 165.7 (6, 2)
Total Defense: 260.4 (1, 1)
Scoring Defense: 11.9 (1, 1)
Turnover Margin: 1.00 (5, 1)
Sacks: 2.86 (20, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 1.93 (59, 5)
Madness 2019 NFL Draft Rankings:
#3     Alexis Osorio
#13   Jonah Williams
#16   Raekwon Davis
#20   Damien Harris
#24   Anfernee Jennings
#59   Ross Pierschbacher
#65   Terrell Lewis
Madness 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#4        Eyabi Anoma
#6        Patrick Surtain Jr.
#43      Jaylen Waddle
#78      Stephon Wynn
#92      Jordan Davis
#101    Emil Ekiyor
#104    Xavier Williams
#127    Tommy Brown
#136    Jalyn Armour-Davis
#139    Josh Jobe
#140    Christian Barmore
#150    Cameron Latu