Alabama football: 10 bold predictions for the 2020 season
The absolute best part of this part of the year is that every team in college football is 0-0. Every college town is full of hope and promise. Every fan base believes this is the year to make that magical run, that this is the year to dominate and destroy their rivals and leave their women weeping in the streets.
On the flip side, every college football coach is ready to spout platitudes about their upcoming marshmallow opponents, eager to downplay the talent assembled by their recruiting efforts, and primed to couch any and every potential good situation as pure happenstance.
Most times, the truth lay somewhere in the middle. Is that the case at Alabama? Maybe. And maybe not. But here are 10 bold predictions we see coming for the Crimson Tide in 2020:
1. The Bryce Young hype will start early
The running joke for years now is that the most popular Crimson Tide player in Tuscaloosa every season is the backup quarterback. While that maxim might have taken a backseat last year with TuaMania running wild and Jalen Hurts at Oklahoma, figure the guy holding the figurative clipboard beside offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will draw plenty of attention before the schedule is even formalized.
Bryce Young, as you may have heard, is a dual-threat QB in the mold of Tagovailoa The Elder. Young was enrolled at UA in the winter and might have pushed Mac Jones during spring practice had there been spring practice. Thus, the legend begins with Young wearing a visor or a ballcap and half the town wishing he was the QB on the field …
2. Mac Jones will face unfair comparisons all season
Dovetailing nicely from No. 1, Mac Jones is pretty much in a no-win situation. Throw a zillion touchdown passes, and pundits will crank out the ol’ “product of the system” pablum (truth be told, this humble scribe practically has that column on standby …). Throw a zillion interceptions, and Jones will find himself a nice comfy seat on the home bench. Throw a half-zillion TDs and a half-zillion picks and, well, precisely no one will be happy.
About the only way Jones can forge his own identity is to win every freaking game he starts in 2020. Easy, right?
3. Najee Harris will lead the SEC in rushing yards
Najee Harris rushed for 1,224 yards and scored 13 rushing touchdowns in 2019, and was seemingly an afterthought in the Crimson Tide offense. Heck, the team didn’t even feel like a particularly strong rushing team for the majority of the season. Despite the feel, Harris was 4th in the league in rushing and tied for 2nd in rushing TDs.
This year, providing he is healthy, Harris will crush his junior-year numbers (at least in average) and will lead the SEC in rushing. Bank it.
4. Some media tool will ask Nick Saban about retirement
Nick Saban is 68 years old. He turns 69 during the season, on Oct. 31. He is the oldest coach in the SEC by 9 years (new Mississippi State coach Mike Leach is 59), and is the longest-tenured coach in the league as well — entering his 14th season at the Capstone.
At some point, perhaps after a rough outing in the middle of the season or even, gasp, a loss, some tool will ask Saban about retirement.
We hope and pray there are cameras running.
5. A starter will miss an early game due to COVID-19
This is a whole new world we live in. Has been ever since Utah Jazz basketball player Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus and the entire sports world ground to a sudden halt in March. Sports have started to come back, in empty stadiums and makeshift arenas inside an amusement-park bubble. Athletes have also tested positive for COVID-19 during this worldwide sports re-boot, and will continue to.
Sorry, folks, Alabama won’t be immune. At some point in the early part of the season, a starter will be forced to miss a game due to a positive test.
It’s a whole new world.
6. Alabama will lose a game it isn’t supposed to
We have talked about this before, but it is damn hard to win all your games in a season when you play in the SEC. It, ahem, does mean more after all. And this will ring true with the Crimson Tide in 2020, where somebody will sneak up and bite Alabama. Maybe on the road, less likely at Bryant-Denny. But it’ll happen. And the sun will come up the following day. I promise.
7. Alabama will beat the brakes off Auburn
As a cherry on top of the sour milk sundae we served up with No. 6, you better believe everyone that wears crimson and white has That Team Down The Road circled for destruction this season.
Auburn should have gone down like a sweet muffin in 2019, but alas the hip of Alabama’s Sweet Hawaiian Prince wasn’t made of titanium and clock-enforcement skills of conference referees continues to be sub-standard. There clearly is a fair amount of voodoo going on in Lee County. But the Tigers will have to don their road whites this time around, and Saban and Co. will be looking to hang half-a-hundred on the arch-rival.
8. A coordinator won’t last the entire season
This isn’t a knock on Sarkisian or his defensive counterpart, Pete Golding. We promise it isn’t. But an entire season means any and all postseason games, and that means Sark could be eyeballed for any number of head-coaching gigs and/or NFL opportunities. Golding? Well, Saban could ax him at any moment and just take over the entire defense.
Either way, look for Sarkisian or Golding to be forwarding their mail to a new address come January.
9. Alabama’s defense will be sneaky good … we think
Part of the reason Alabama’s offense was pinball-machine good last year was that it had to overcome a defense wrecked with injuries and youth. Fingers crossed and rapping on every piece of wood in reach, that shouldn’t be the case this season. Dylan Moses opted to return for a senior season and will anchor what is now an experienced and deep linebacking corps. The defensive line could finally be a run-stopping force once again. And the secondary has the potential to be solid-t0-spectacular.
10. The Tide will play for the national championship
Yes, we know. The headline said “bold predictions,” and this isn’t exactly like predicting Toledo will play for the big trophy. But Alabama will be hungry to get back to the College Football Playoff and doesn’t want to visit Orlando again for a football game in the foreseeable future. The talent is there. The schedule remains to be seen. The stars are aligned.
Can No. 18 be out there for Alabama? Well, that’s an even *bolder* prediction for another time.