We are in the middle of college football season and our annual Top 25 is also here. Yahoo Sports released the top 25 teams this year, starting at No. 11-25 simultaneously before publishing each of our top 10 teams in separate posts during the days leading up Week 1. The countdown ends with No. 1 Alabama.
Previously: 11-25, No. 10 Oregon, No. No., No. 8 Notre Dame, No. 7 Texas A&M, No. 6 Michigan, No. No., No. No., No. No., No. 2 Ohio State
Alabama College Football Playoff: Another season!
Since 2013, when the four-team format was introduced, the Crimson Tide has made seven of eight College Football Playoffs. And Alabama hasn’t lost in the semifinals of a College Football Playoff since it fell to Ohio State in the first year of the format in 2014. Yes, the Crimson Tide made the title in six of the last six playoffs that it qualified for. Only the 2019 season — a year where Alabama destroyed Michigan in the Citrus Bowl — has seen a title game without the Crimson Tide since 2015.
We are ranked No. 1 in our preseason poll, we’re betting on Alabama making the national title game once again. The Crimson Tide has everything in place to compete for the SEC and national championships in 2022. A national title would be the team’s seventh under Nick Saban and bring the team’s record to 4-3 in College Football Playoff title games.
Two of the top college football players
For any level of football, having the best offensive player as well as the best defensive player is a recipe for success. And it’s a claim that Alabama can make entering the season.
Bryce Young, the reigning Heisman winner, enters 2022 with the goal of becoming the first Heisman repeat winner in almost 50 years. While Young isn’t the betting favorite for the award — that honor goes to Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud — he has a phenomenal shot to at least be a finalist for the trophy once again.
Young should be even better in his second season as Alabama’s starting quarterback and will also be more familiar with the offense as coordinator Bill O’Brien enters his second season with the Tide. Just how good Alabama’s passing game will be, however, will hinge on a cast of new faces at wide receiver.
Jameson Williams, John Metchie III and John Metchie III were both the only two players to have more than 50 catch in 2021. They’re now both in the NFL. TE Cameron Latu is the team’s leading returning receiver and the team also has to replace slot WR Slade Bolden.
JoJo Earle was expected to replace one of the outside receiver positions at the start of the season, but he will be out of action for about a month due to a foot injury he sustained in fall camp. But there’s still plenty of depth at wideout, either through recruiting or the transfer portal. Alabama added Jermaine Burton (Georgia) and Tyler Harrell (Louisville) as transfers and former highly-touted recruits Ja’Corey Brooks and Traeshon Holden are in line to receive significant playing time as well.
Will Anderson, an edge-rushing terror, leads the defense. Anderson, a Heisman finalist in 2021, had 17.5 sacks in 2021 and 34.5 tackles to loss in 2021. These impressive numbers were achieved despite double-teaming and a strong focus on the offensive scheme. Anderson is in line for yet another stellar season and it’s possible that he and Young could be the first teammates drafted with the top two picks in the NFL draft since 2000.
Many returning talents in defense
Alabama’s defense, crazily enough, has some room for improvement in 2022. The Tide allowed more than 20 points per game last season for the first time since Saban’s first season at the school in 2007.
Eight returning starters were part of a young defense that helped the Tide win a national title in 2020. And seven starters are back in 2022, including the team’s top four leading tacklers from 2021.
Tennessee transfer Henry To’oTo’o stepped in seamlessly at linebacker a season ago and was the team’s leading tackler. He’s back for another run with the Tide and should captain the middle of the defense again. After combining for 171 tackles last season, DeMarcco Hellams (left) and Jordan Battle (right) form one of college football’s best safety tandems. There’s a lot of youth at cornerback, but Kool-Aid McKinstry and LSU transfer Eli Ricks were both prized recruits.
There’s also more to the pass rush than just Anderson. Alabama had 57 tackles in 2021, and Dallas Turner was a true freshman who contributed 8.5. He will be a target for offensives, and linemen DJ Dale (and Byron Young) will clog up their interior.
Biggest game: Oct. 8 vs. Texas A&M
The Tide may get an early-season Texas test in Week 2, but they should focus on business in Austin. The Aggies seem poised to be Alabama’s biggest threat in the SEC West and A&M’s visit to Tuscaloosa comes in the midst of a four game stretch for the Tide that includes road games at Arkansas and Tennessee and another home game with Mississippi State.
Jimbo Fisher was the first Nick Saban former assistant to beat an Alabama Saban-coached team in 2021 when the Aggies defeated them. Given what went on between the two over the offseason, we’re not expecting Alabama to let off the gas at all if it gets up early on the Aggies.
Tyler Harrell, WR, is an Impact player
In 2021, Harrell averaged almost 30 yards per catch at Louisville. Although he had only 18 catches, he turned them into 523 yards and six touchdowns. While he’s likely not going to keep up a 30-yards per catch pace in 2022, he can team with Georgia transfer Jermaine Burton (19.1 yards per catch) to form a dynamic deep-threat duo for Young. Alabama will need a receiver or two to replace Jameson Williams’s production last season. Harrell and Burton should make it a priority for defenses to keep their safeties high above the field.
It’s very possible that Alabama will slip up at some point in the regular season and lose a game. But we’re not going to bank on it, especially at plus odds for a 12-0 season. Alabama drew the best SEC East schedule possible with Vanderbilt as its rotational opponent and the A&M and Auburn games are at home.
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