The Alabama Crimson Tide are back on the field for a potential revenge season this Saturday. Alabama missed the College Football Playoff for only the second time in nine years last season. Head coach Nick Saban will turn 72 years old during the season, so his time is limited. Alabama players, coaches and fans are confident in their ability to contend for another championship this 2023 season. The Tide have a serious chance to dethrone Georgia, but there are serious questions around their roster that could affect its ability to contend for a national title. Alabama has to take it one game at a time starting in week one as they host the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders. There are five reasons for Alabama fans to be excited for week one despite not playing a Power Five team.
Five Reasons for Alabama to Be Excited for Middle Tennessee State
#5 – The Defensive Line Will Be Loaded
Alabama’s defense has been solid, particularly their defensive line. Justin Eboigbe, the strongside defensive end, returns healthy and ready for his final season. Having played since his freshman year in 2019, he has gained significant experience. Tim Smith, the three-technique defensive tackle, is also an experienced senior who is expected to shine in his final season. Smith and sophomore nose tackle Jaheim Oatis will form a formidable wall at the line of scrimmage. Oatis had an impressive freshman year, and with his improved speed and strength, he could be a challenge for opposing offenses this season. Dallas Turner, the junior jack linebacker and weakside defensive end, is set to fill the gap left by Will Anderson, Jr. Turner has been a valuable asset, having accumulated 67 total tackles, 30 solo tackles, 18 tackles for loss, and 12.2 sacks in his two seasons at Alabama.
#4 – Three Transfers Will Immediately Contribute
The NCAA Transfer Portal is a tool that Saban and his coaching staff will continue to utilize. This Saturday, Alabama expects three former transfers to start. Tight end C.J. Dippre (Maryland), linebacker Trezmen Marshall (Georgia), and safety Jaylen Key (UAB) start their Tide careers on Saturday. Dippre is going to be a solid weapon for the Tide’s new offense-led offensive coordinator Tommy Rees. Key will be a leader on defense and be able to showcase his talent in an elite program after a breakout performance with the Blazers last season. Marshall will go from reserve linebacker to replacing a longtime starter in Henry To’oTo’o at weakside linebacker.
#3 – The Tide Will Get a Better Answer at Quarterback
Alabama’s starting quarterback job will not be settled after the week one matchup against Middle Tennessee State. What redshirt sophomore Jalen Milroe, redshirt sophomore and Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner, and redshirt freshman Ty Simpson can do on Saturday is establish they can lead scoring drives for the Tide’s offenses and not turn the ball over. There is rarely going to be an opportunity for either of these quarterbacks to make a big play. The key in this game is to get the play calls out to the other players and do the simple things right. Saban praised Milroe for his development in the pocket. This was his biggest weakness going into the quarterback competition. The week two matchup versus the #11 Texas Longhorns at home should give a lot more answers in preparation for and mental stability of the quarterbacks moving forward.
#2 – The Beginning of the Caleb Downs Era
Alabama had the top-rated recruiting class this year, and they’re already seeing great results. Safety Caleb Downs projects to make his first collegiate start at free safety for Alabama. Downs could be one of two true freshmen set to start for the Tide. Some of the best attributes used to describe Downs, according to former Alabama receiver/return specialist Christion Jones, are his versatility, the desire to make plays and his high football IQ. Jones compared Downs to former Alabama safety Landon Collins. He was known as the field general and versatile playmaker of the Tide’s defense. Down could be an impact player for the Tide’s defense as early as day one. It will help him that he will have veteran coaches like Saban and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele teaching him. He will have on-the-field leaders like Key and junior cornerback Kool-Aid McKinistry to observe.
#1 – There Is Still Belief in the Tide?
Throughout the off-season, many football analysts made their picks that the CFP would have Alabama looking outside. As the season gets closer, there have been more believers in the Tide’s ability to use last season’s failures to get back in the CFP. ESPN’s College GameDay crew Kirk Herbstreit, Pat McAfee, and Desmond Howard all had Alabama making it to the CFP. Herbstreit and McAfee had Alabama winning the national championship on top of the SEC.
Action Network’s Brett McMurphy, however, is not a believer in the Tide’s ability to stay consistent throughout the season. The Athletics had eight college football experts give their takes on the top four teams at the end of the season. None of them picked Alabama to go to the CFP.
This is going to be a season where Saban will fuel his team with a negative atmosphere from a majority of experts. Alabama will need to go through the season game-by-game and not look ahead. Several experts believe Alabama will lose to Texas, LSU, or Georgia in the SEC Championship. Alabama is more worried about their week one goal against Middle Tennessee State and its dual-threat offense.
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