Coach Nick Saban and the Tide have what amounts to a bye week with Louisiana-Monroe on tap for this Saturday in Tuscaloosa. The extra time gives the team — and the fanbase — a chance to catch its breath before diving back into SEC play.
Moving forward, here are three reasons for optimism in Tuscaloosa:
1. Alabama is the most talented SEC team not named Ole Miss.
It’s probably a toss-up between the Crimson Tide and the Rebels, but Mississippi already won their head-to-head matchup. They will not meet again this season (barring a very unlikely College Football Playoffs matchup), so fans can bank on the fact that the Tide will outmatch every other team they play.
Offensively, there are big questions at quarterback and some small ones on the O-line. Wide receiver Robert Foster is out for the season after tearing his rotator cuff. The secondary is still giving up big plays. But the sheer number of 4-and-5-star players — and the top-notch coaching staff — will always put ‘Bama ahead above the competition.
Ole Miss earned Saturday night’s 43-37 victory, but they did so by forcing five turnovers, allowing none, and doing this. That’s a flukey combination, and proved just how tough it is to topple the Tide.
2. The schedule breaks Alabama’s way.
The toughest game left is in two weeks at UGA. The Tide will likely get a slight edge from Vegas, but that contest could swing in either direction.
If — that’s a big “if” — Alabama can escape Athens, fans should be excited about the team’s prospects. The toughest games will be at Texas A&M (Oct. 17) and against LSU at home (Nov. 7), but those matchups should not strike fear in any SEC team’s heart.
The biggest X factor? Auburn’s sudden collapse. After nearly slipping against Jacksonville State and getting pounded by LSU, the Tigers appear declawed. The Nov. 28 Iron Bowl on the road is not nearly as daunting as it was during the preseason.
3. Nick Saban is the best coach in the country.
While making an appearance on College GameDay this past Saturday morning, Saban made headlines by announcing that Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is the best football coach in the nation.
While that’s not a bad choice, most level-headed pundits would say Saban occupies that spot. His Tide have had a prominent say in the national title picture each of the past four seasons, and he’s claimed three national championships since 2009.
Alabama football is a mainstay in the SEC Championship, and — thanks to the reasons above — it will have a strong chance at returning in 2015.
Should you put your money on the Tide returning to the College Football Playoffs? Probably not. But you can bet that ‘Bama will at least be in the discussion.