Can Alabama go undefeated for a second straight season?

That question will answer how you should play this bet.

Last year’s Alabama team ran the table for the first time under Coach Nick Saban since the 2009 season.

Despite the 5 national championships that the Tide have won under Saban, they have only reached 12 regular season wins 4 times in twelve seasons. So before even getting to the unique factors of the 2021 schedule and roster changes the team has only accomplished that total one third of the time during this dynasty run. 

The Schedule:

The Tide’s schedule presents a few challenges that could threaten an undefeated regular season.

Alabama opens week one with a traditional neutral site game against Miami (+18.5) in Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Under Nick Saban the Tide have rolled in neutral site, week one games. Those Alabama teams have yet to lose a kickoff weekend game, and most of the scores have been decided by two or more touchdowns.

Miami will be easing back D’Eriq King, one of the most electric quarterbacks in college football, from a torn ACL he suffered late in the 2020 season.

If King were fully healthy this game may draw some interest as Alabama ushers in a new era on offense, but this game should not be one to circle if looking for one that Alabama may drop.

The key games on the schedule that could cause the Crimson Tide headaches are at Florida on September 18, at Texas A&M on October 9th and the regular season finale at Auburn on November 27th. Three separate road games across three months present Alabama with their biggest tests of the season.

Florida will be in a similar situation as Alabama, replacing veterans on offense that yielded explosive numbers in 2020.

Quarterback Emory Jones returns under Dan Mullen and has garnered some hype coming into his first year as the starting quarterback, but they’ll be without their top three pass catchers from a season ago.

A September game in The Swamp is challenging in its own right, but this likely isn’t where Alabama trips up. 

Texas A&M was on the cusp of a College Football Playoff berth last year, and some may say they deserved the final spot over Ohio State.

This season Jimbo Fisher and team return talent all over the field and have recruited at a level that should make success sustainable. Isaiah Spiller, Ainias Smith and Jalen Wydermyer present one of the top trio of weapons in all of college football and give the Aggies the ability to attack the field from all different angles.

The defense is led by DeMarvin Leal, a likely first round pick, and will be bolstered by highly ranked recruits along the defensive line. The biggest question for Texas A&M will be their quarterback play.

If the Aggies get competitive play from whichever signal caller wins the starting job, this team could again contend for a CFP berth. This will be Alabama’s biggest test to reach the over 11.5 wins mark. 

Alabama’s matchup against Auburn (The Iron Bowl) tends to always follow the cliche of “throw out the records”. Auburn returns Bo Nix and Tank Bigsby in a talented backfield, but new coach Bryan Harsin inherits a roster in flux after former coach Gus Malzahn was let go and the team experienced increased transfer portal activity this offseason.

This game shouldn’t pose much of a threat to the Crimson Tide, but you can never count out the voodoo that seems to surround Jordan Hare Stadium at times. 

The Team:

Alabama’s biggest opponent this year may not be on the road, but in its own locker room.

The Tide replaces five first round draft picks on the offensive side of the ball and another on defense.

On top of replacing the on field talent, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian left the team to take the head coaching job at Texas.

Luckily for Alabama they truly reload rather than rebuild. Former Penn State and Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien takes the reins as play caller for the offense and will have highly touted quarterback prospect Bryce Young running the show on the field.

John Metchie returns after a productive sophomore showing to fill the shoes of last year’s running mates, Heisman winner Devonta Smith and top 5 pick Jaylen Waddle.

Alabama has a plethora of highly ranked recruits poised to contribute, but the offense will likely take some time to gel and reach the explosive levels seen over the past three seasons. 

Fortunately, the defensive side of the ball only loses two starters and should be able to help ease the growing pains that the offense may go through. Will Anderson, Chris Allen, Christian Harris and Tennessee transfer Henry To’oto’o make up the best linebacking corps in the nation and should give opposing offenses fits. 

The Bet: 

Under 11.5 wins. The margin of error on this bet hitting the over is so slim for the payoff. With a young, inexperienced team and tough road tests, it’s more likely that the Tide drops a game during the regular season as it finds its stride on offense. 

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Alabama SEC Champion (-150): Despite the suggestion to bet under 11.5 wins, the SEC Championship would still be in Alabama’s reach with a loss in the regular season.

This version of Nick Saban’s team should improve as the season goes on, meaning they could be playing their best football heading into the postseason. An early loss could still leave the door open to an SEC West championship and spot in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta. 

Bryce Young Heisman Trophy Winner (+600): It’s strange that a quarterback with zero games started would have the second shortest odds to win college football’s most prized award, but that’s a glimpse into the expectations surrounding the young pass thrower. Aside from that, this may be one of the most wide open preseason Heisman fields in recent memory.

The past few seasons have had players like Trevor Lawrence, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Fields leading the charge going into the season, but this year the traditional college football powers are replacing key players at the traditional Heisman winning positions (Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver) leaving the race for the award wide open entering the season.  

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