Potential flaws for each national title contender: Alabama and Georgia
|Saturday, July 11, 2020, 9:12 AM- -|
While the offseason following the 2018 national championship went by all too fast, this one can’t end soon enough. As we inch ever closer to the start of college football, let’s take a look at the major National Championship contenders and specifically zoom in on the potential flaws that they have, few as they are. Those top contenders include Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama, Oklahoma, Penn State, and Georgia.
In this article, we’ll delve into the two SEC teams.
In the 2017 season’s National Championship game against Georgia, the identity of Alabama shifted. After halftime of that game, they changed quarterbacks. Tua Tagovailoa led the Crimson Tide to a comeback win in overtime. For the two seasons since then, Alabama has looked very different. They moved from a run-heavy conservative offense paired with an elite physical defense to a modern high-flying offense paired with a good, but not quite elite defense. Perhaps their quicker scores and resulting in shorter possessions stressed their defense, but whatever the reason, Alabama’s defense was only ranked 20th last season.
Entering 2020, covering up for a merely good defense won’t be so easy. The Crimson Tide must replace their QB and top two WRs. QB Tua Tagovailoa was picked fifth by the Dolphins, WR Henry Ruggs III was picked 12th by the Raiders, and WR Jerry Jeudy was picked 15th by the Broncos. That’s a lot of firepower for the passing game to replace.
Mac Jones and freshman Bryce Young will battle for snaps at QB. The WR corps should be more than fine as Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith are back. Still, a return to the more traditional ground-and-pound pre-Tua offense is very possible. Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr. give Alabama a great RB duo to lean on. They can be perfectly dominant with that sort of attack, as 2015 with Derrick Henry proved.
To do it, they need their defense to be a lot better than 20th, but according to Bill Connelly, Alabama ranks just 75th in the proportion of production returning to the defense. Getting middle linebacker Dylan Moses back from injury will go a long way towards that cause. Additionally, Alabama returns its defensive coordinator, Pete Golding. After years of coaching turnover, continuity will help.
Alabama can win a national title if their defense is good and their QB play is great or if their defense returns to elite status and they simply get a game manager at QB. They probably aren’t a good bet with a merely good defense and a game manager at defense though.
Georgia brings in a new offensive coordinator and a new QB after finishing just 61st in total offense last season. OC Todd Monken joins from the NFL, while QB Jamie Newman is a transfer from Wake Forest. Those additions deserve the excitement they’ve garnered, but expectations have to be tempered due to loss of Spring practice. Teams with less continuity are hurt more by the loss of that development time, and that could be especially true in Athens.
In addition to the new coordinator and signal-caller, UGA had an impressive three offensive linemen taken in the NFL draft. Both tackles went in the first round while an offensive guard followed in the fourth round. It is incredibly impressive for that many players to be selected from one offensive line in the same draft. It is reminiscent of the 2019 NFL draft in which Clemson had three defensive linemen get drafted in the first round and another in the fourth. Now, the question for Georgia is can they replace them? That puts even more pressure on Todd Monken and Jamie Newman.
Georgia certainly has recruited the talent, and Monken and Newman may well prove to be upgrades at offensive coordinator and quarterback, respectively, but can they get it together before a September showdown in Tuscaloosa? Probably not, but perhaps they’ll be full steam ahead by Halloween when they play the Gators and they’ll earn themselves a rematch with the Crimson Tide in Atlanta.