Alabama football vs. Miami: Scouting report, prediction

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

September is here, and football is close behind.

Alabama football is set to kick off its 15th season in the Nick Saban era at 2:30 p.m. CT on Saturday at Mercedes Benz-Stadium in Atlanta against Miami. 

The two teams haven't faced each other since the Crimson won the national championship after routing the Hurricanes in the 1993 Sugar Bowl. Alabama is 14-3 all time against Miami. 

Here are a few things to know about the No. 16 Hurricanes:  

QB D'Eriq King is the top threat

For Alabama to succeed on defense against Miami, it all starts with stopping King. 

King started for the Hurricanes in 2020 after four seasons with Houston. He is expected to be ready to go to start Saturday after recovering from surgery on a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee, both of which happened in the bowl game. 

Saban said King is athletic, has great feet, good quickness and is a good runner. 

"He does a really good job of operating their up-tempo type offense," Saban said. "This guy is a really good player. It’s going to be very challenging for us, not only because he’s a really good quarterback but he’s a great athlete playing the position." 

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Linebacker Christian Harris said King can make all kinds of throws on the run or in the pocket, extending plays while he keeps his eyes downfield. 

King was a semifinalist for the Maxwell award, Davey O'Brien award and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award in 2020. 

If King can't get anything going against the Alabama defense, Miami will be in trouble. 

Miami brings plenty of experience

While Alabama overhauls most of its offense to replace NFL draft departures, the Hurricanes bring back most of their starters on both sides of the ball. 

Nineteen of 22 Miami starters from 2020 are back for this season. The other three who didn't return were NFL draft picks, though. So the Hurricanes do have talent to replace at defensive end and tight end. 

But the offensive line is fully intact. 

“I think it will definitely present a really great challenge for our defense," Harris said. "Having a lot of those guys with so much experience there, they’re able to call out whatever blitzes are coming, you know, be able to anticipate and play a lot faster and, you know, really well as an o-line group."

Sixth year, new position

As Miami looks to replace two draftees at defensive end, one player to whom it will turn is Zach McCloud

McCloud, who shares the record for most games in a Miami uniform, is returning for a sixth year. And he's set to start at a new position. 

McCloud spent five years at outside linebacker, but now he will put his hand in the ground at defensive end. He debuted in the position in the bowl game against Oklahoma State this past December. He'll get more of an extended look this season. 

Prediction: Alabama 42, Miami 21

The Hurricanes aren't an easy first game, and they should make things interesting. Especially if King clicks and Alabama sputters early offensively in the first game action together as a fairly new unit. But even if there are some bumps, the Crimson Tide has plenty of talent to overcome that over the course of four quarters. Alabama will start the season with a convincing victory over a ranked opponent.