Any college football fan will tell you that it is never too early to start thinking about next season. The spotlight on recruiting has never shone brighter than in recent years, and it is not likely to go dim any time soon. Nowhere in the country is this more prevalent than SEC country. IF your team is winning, you imagine the possibilities next year will bring, however, if your season is going badly, you hope that help is on the way.
Alabama fans certainly aren’t any different. Many believe the Crimson Tide will be among the favorites to win a BCS national championship in 2011. Nine defensive starters are returning in 2011 so scoring on Bama will be a huge challenge for anybody. One thing Bama has working for them in 2011 that they didn’t have in 2010; a favorable home schedule.
As a fan of college football, and of the Crimson Tide, I thought I would offer some predictions for the 2011 season. Some people will agree, many of you will disagree. However, nobody can deny, the Crimson Tide will be a force to reckon with in 2011.
September 3, Bama vs. Kent State: I don’t know a lot about Kent State, but I do know that Alabama will win this game. A.J. McCarron will have an opportunity gain some early season confidence and I believe he will have a big game. It will be a great tune up for what could be the best defense in the college football. Alabama 42, Kent State 3.
September 10, Bama vs. Penn State: With the game being played in Happy Valley you have to figure Penn State will play much better than they did in Tuscaloosa last year. However, it will be difficult to replace Evan Royster and there is still the question of who will be Penn State’s quarterback. The Nittany Lions certainly looked much better under Matt McGloin than they did with Rob Bolden. Emotion will only take Penn State so far in this game. After a close first half, Bama will assert itself with a physical brand of football that Penn State won’t see anywhere else in the Big Ten. Alabama 24, Penn State 10.
September 17, Bama vs. North Texas: North Texas will have a new coach in 2011 and they will need it after being one of the worst teams in the country last year. Obviously, it’s not likely to matter. How many points will Alabama score in this game? Simple, as many as they want. Never being one to run up the score, the Tide will roll early, and give some valuable reps to the backups. Alabama 49, North Texas 0.
September 24, Bama vs. Arkansas: Traditionally, this is the conference season swing game for both teams. The winner usually goes on to a nice season while the loser is out of the race for the west almost immediately. Alabama had a comeback for the ages in last year’s game. Tyler Wilson will have a lot of pressure on him to fill Ryan Mallet’s shoes. Arkansas has weapons returning but not enough to win on the road in Tuscaloosa this early in the season. Alabama 20, Arkansas 7
October 1, Bama vs. Florida: This is one of the hardest games for anybody to predict. The reason is because of first year coach at Florida, Will Muschamp. A great defensive coach, taking over a team with a great defense, can only mean one thing; Florida will have a great defense in 2011. Offensively, Florida should be better than a year ago, but still surrounded by mystery. Muschamp brings in a pro-style offense to a program used to running a spread. This should suit John Brantley much more than Urban Meyer’s spread. Although the game is in the Swamp, this has never bothered Alabama in the past. After all, the Tide has lost only twice at Florida Field in history. Great defense and just enough offense should get it done for Alabama. Alabama 23, Florida 15.
October 8, Bama vs. Vandy: SEC fans get excited when they see Vanderbilt back on their schedule. The only thing that could make this game interesting would be a let down after an emotional game at Florida the week before for Alabama. Of course, this would just mean a smaller margin of victory for the Tide. Alabama 28, Vandy 6.
October 15, Bama vs. Ole Miss: Ole Miss is coming off of a very disappointing season. If history tells us anything, Houston Nutt is at his best when his back is against the wall. The game is in Oxford, which has never seemed to matter in the past as far as this series goes. Ole Miss will be breaking in a new quarterback which usually does not bode well for teams going against Alabama’s 3-4 defense and its variety of blitz packages. Sure, the game will be interesting, for about a half. Alabama 26, Ole Miss 10
October 22, Bama vs. Tennessee: Quite possibly the streakiest rivalry in all of college football. What used to be known as the “third Saturday in October” has recently changed to the fourth Saturday in October. One thing that has not changed in recent years is Alabama’s dominance in the series. This is highly unlikely to change in 2011. Tennessee should be improved with Tyler Bray playing a full season and returning star WR Justin Hunter. Senior runninback Taurean Poole has become one of the SEC’s must under-rated players. However, the game is in Tuscaloosa, enough said. Tennessee is rebuilding, but still has a lot of work to reclaim their place as one of the SEC elites. Last year was a blow out and this season will be like groundhog day for the Vols. Alabama 35, UT 10.
November 5, Bama vs. LSU: Okay, for Alabama, this is where the season really gets dicey. LSU, like Alabama, is considered a national championship contender. It will be very difficult to predict this game the first week in November much less the second week of March! A lot will depend on who the LSU quarterback will be. Zach Mettenberger (6-5, 250) has all the hype surrounding him. Many fans all across the bayou expect him to start and win immediately. Much like Alabama, LSU is loaded on offense and despite loosing Patrick Peterson, on defense as well. This game should probably be moved to Sunday as part of CBS’s NFL doubleheader, since there will be so many future pros playing in this one. Alabama will win this game for the same reason they beat LSU in there title run of two years ago, home game. Alabama 17, LSU 13.
November 12, Bama vs. Miss State. Mississippi State had their best season in years in 2010. Losing Manny Diaz was devastating and this will show on the field this fall. State will be a solid six win team in 2011 but definitely take a step back. They do have some playmakers returning on offense. Emotions will run high for Miss State as they do each time they play Alabama but in the end the Tide just has too much on defense and enough offense to break 20. Mississippi State will be lucky to 17. Alabama 27, Miss State 14.
November 19, Bama vs. Georgia Southern: (See Bama vs. North Texas)
November 26, Bama vs. Auburn: The only thing this iron bowl will have in common with last year’s is the fact that both will take place on November 26. Alabama will certainly not lack for motivation after the most titanic collapse in Iron Bowl history. The posters and signs are in the locker room, Saban is constantly reminding them, and the players want redemption. Auburn is losing a ton of players off the national championship* team including obviously Cam Newton and Nick Fairley. Auburn 2011 will in no way resemble Auburn 2010. Nobody is foolish enough to think that Auburn will not show up in the iron bowl, especially in Jordan Hare. They certainly did without Cam Newton in ’09. The biggest factor in this iron bowl, aside from the fact that Alabama will have more talent, will be motivation. A national title is motivation enough. Couple that with redemption and look out. Alabama fans will expect nothing less. Alabama 25, Auburn 13.
There will be many challenges along the way for Alabama in 2011. Of course, injuries are impossible to predict. However, when the dust settles, look for Alabama to finish the regular season unbeaten for the third time in four years.