Best case and worst case scenario for Alabama football's 2020 season
Alabama is two weeks away from a football season unlike any other: 10 games, all against competition and an off week before a mid-December conference championship game.
The mass of returning players to most positions - outside linebacker and secondary being the two lone exceptions - makes UA a serious candidate for any championship available to it, but its new schedule presents unique pitfalls. Here are the best-case and worst-case scenarios for Alabama’s 2020 season.
Best case: An undefeated national championship
The talent discrepancy alone should be enough for UA to overwhelm five of its opponents — Missouri, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Arkansas — leaving five games with some of doubt: Texas A&M, Georgia, at Tennessee, at LSU and Auburn.
UA has all the pieces for a punishing run game, with four returning starters on the offensive line (plus plenty of capable replacements to deal with injuries) and returning the players responsible for 21 of last year’s 27 rushing touchdowns. An LSU offense in complete overhaul is being supported by a defense in a similar situation, losing several players to the NFL and others to COVID-19 opt-outs. A dominating run game could tilt the balance in that matchup.
Skepticism for Texas A&M and Tennessee’s scoring potential would be fair, especially when matched up with a UA offense that should remain explosive. Neither has been able to manufacture consistent quarterback play and neither has much in returning production at wide receiver; both programs are recruiting at a high level and could present viable threats to Alabama in the future, but 2020 is likely too soon for both programs.
Georgia has a lot of talent to replace to do so well for a road game that early in the season (UA and Georgia meet on Oct. 17); Auburn’s record in Tuscaloosa since 2008 is 1-5 with an average final score of 41.5-17.5. At that point, it’s up to a likely rematch with the Bulldogs and the SEC Championship Game and whatever form the postseason takes in 2020.
While the impact of home field advantage remains to be seen in an environment with huge attendance reductions, Alabama is fortunate to have Georgia, Texas A&M and Auburn all coming to Bryant-Denny Stadium, as opposed to what could be tricky road games.
Worst case: Another two-loss season
UA is not immune to its own pitfalls. It is starting over at two critical defensive position groups, secondary and outside linebacker, that could prove costly as the inexperience at inside linebacker and defensive line did last season.
An inability to rush the passer or defend quality wide receivers could prove costly against LSU, with plans to stick to its prolific passing attack from a season ago, and Auburn, with returning weapons at quarterback and wide receiver. It could even prove costly against Mississippi State and its new Mike Leach-led Air Raid attack.
If Jarrett Guarantano never fumbles into the arms of Trevon Diggs and a 100-yard fumble return for a UA touchdown, the Volunteers would’ve found themselves in a one-possession game with fewer than eight minutes to go. This season, Tennessee has the (weakened by pandemic) benefit of a home game and a better roster than last year.
UA’s offensive potential and overall talent level is likely to keep it from dropping all of its potentially losable games, but the 2019 team had a historic offense and still lost two games. The same fate is not inconceivable in 2020.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson