Alabama Crimson Tide: 10-2 (6-2 in SEC), Ranked No. 13 in College Football Playoff Rankings
Last Result: Auburn Tigers 48, Alabama Crimson Tide 45
Needing a win to potentially make the College Football Playoff, the Crimson Tide came up just short in the Iron Bowl. Despite Alabama’s star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa being out with a hip injury, Mac Jones, the backup, did more than enough for Alabama to win this game, leading them to 45 points, while going 26-for-39 for 335 yards passing and four touchdowns. Jones also had 32 rushing yards, which included a key run on 4th and 7 late in the fourth quarter for 18 yards. However, Jones did have two key pick sixes, one which was a bad overthrow intended for probable top 10 pick wideout Jerry Jeudy, coming in the 2nd quarter to give Auburn the lead 17-10 and the other coming in the 3rd quarter at Auburn’s two yard line on first and goal to give the Tigers a 37-31 lead. On that second pick six, Mac Jones’ pass hit running back Najee Harris in the back before bouncing up into linebacker Zakoby Mcclain’s arms for the 100 yard return.
The Crimson Tides offense was helped by big days from Najee Harris who carried the ball 27 times for 146 yards and a touchdown and Jaylen Waddle who accounted for four receptions for 98 yards with three touchdowns.
Alabama’s offense is one of the best in college football, averaging 46.6 points per game, which ranks second best in the country. In fact, the Crimson Tide have scored over 34 points in every game. The Alabama offense relies heavily on its passing game due to their four pro caliber wide receivers in Jerry Jeudy, who has 71 catches for 959 yards and nine touchdowns, DeVonta Smith, who has 65 receptions for 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns, Henry Ruggs III, who has 38 catches for 719 yards and six touchdowns, and Jaylen Waddle, who has 32 receptions for 553 yards and six touchdowns. Those four have helped propel Alabama to 346.5 passing yards per contest, which ranks 5th best in college football.
The Crimson Tide’s offense, who had no problem moving the ball against the Auburn defense for 515 yards, only got two chances with the ball in the final frame. The Tide started the fourth quarter with the ball down 40-38 and finished that drive with a 28 yard touchdown pass to Waddle to take the lead 45-40 with 13:44 left in the game. Then on the next drive, Auburn responded going on an 11 play 77 yard drive that ended in a touchdown that gave the Tigers a 48-45 lead. Alabama finally got the ball back with 8:03 remaining in the contest. The Tide drove the ball for over six minutes to set up a 30 yard field goal attempt to tie the game for sophomore kicker Joseph Bulovas, which hit the left upright and missed. After seemingly getting the stop they needed to get the ball back on Auburn’s next drive, Alabama was caught with too many players on the field for the punt attempt, which gave the Tigers an automatic first down and ended Alabama's College Football Playoff hopes.
Though Alabama's defense didn’t play as poorly as the 48 points the scoreboard showed due to the two pick sixes and a few short fields Auburn obtained to start drives, the Tides defense didn’t play well either and couldn’t get off the field in the fourth quarter when they needed to. Alabama struggled tremendously to control the rushing attack of running back JaTravious Whitlow and quarterback Bo Nix, who combined for 22 carries for 158 yards with 7.1 yards per carry and a touchdown. The Crimson Tide did, though, play decent pass defense only allowing Nix to go 15-for-30 for 173 yards and a touchdown.
The Tide’s defense has been solid this season allowing just 20.3 points per game, which ranks 18th best in college football. The pass defense has been the defenses’ strength only giving up 189.9 passing yards per game, which ranks 13th best in college football. The Tide have been extremely unlucky with field goal defense, though, as they are one of three teams in the country that have an opponent field goal percentage of 100%.
Though they lost the turnover battle in the Iron Bowl 2-1, Alabama has been really good at taking care of the ball and forcing turnovers this season, as they rank 5th in college football in turnover margin per game at +1.1.
Despite winning the yardage battle 515 to 354, the first down battle 28 to 23 and the time of possession battle by over 11 minutes, the Crimson Tide still fell short at Jordan-Hare.
It is also worth noting that the Crimson Tide have had their fair share of kicking woes in recent years including this season, as their kickers Joseph Bulovas and Will Reichard have gone 12-18 on the season in field goal attempts and have missed three extra points. The Tide have also not even attempted a field goal that was past 49 yards for either kicker.
Alabama’s record in the last five years:
2019: 10-2 (6-2 in SEC) Currently ranked 13th in CFP rankings
2018: 14-1 (8-0 in SEC) Lost in National Championship
2017: 13-1 (7-1 in SEC) Won National Championship
2016: 14-1 (8-0 in SEC) Lost in National Championship
2015: 14-1 (7-1 in SEC) Won National Championship
How has Alabama Faired vs Ranked Opponents in the Last Five Years?
In the last five seasons the Crimson Tide are 28-6 against ranked opponents. Alabama had made the National Championship four straight seasons, coming into this one, which is why Alabama missing the College Football Playoff entirely was something the college football world did not expect.
During that four year span from 2015 to 2018 Alabama’s record vs ranked opponents was 27-4 with two of their losses coming against Clemson in the National Championship and three of them coming by less than 13 points. The other two losses that didn’t come against the Clemson Tigers came before they went on to win the National Championship in that season in No. 6 Auburn who was able to defeat the No. 1 ranked Crimson Tide 26-14 in 2016 at Jordan-Hare and No. 15 Ole Miss 43-37 who was able to beat No. 2 ranked Alabama in week 3 of the 2015 season.
Out of Alabama’s 28 wins against ranked opponents in the last five years, 23 of them have been by more than one possession. In that five year span the Crimson Tide have outscored ranked opponents 1,154-690, which is an average score of 34-20.
This season, though, Alabama has not had the same success against top 25 foes going 1-2, which is ultimately the reason the Tide were unable to make the College Football Playoff. After starting the season 8-0, which included a 47-28 win over No. 24 Texas A&M, the Tide ran into the No. 1 ranked LSU Tigers. With a banged up Tua Tagovailoa, who still managed to throw for 418 yards and four touchdowns, the Tide ended up losing a high scoring affair 46-41 in which their defense failed to get off the field and stop Heisman winner Joe Burrow on the Tigers last three possessions. Then in Alabama’s last game of the regular season with their College Football Playoff hopes on the line, they lost 48-45 against their rival No. 16 Auburn.
The last time the Wolverines faced Alabama was in the opening game of the 2012 season at AT&T Stadium. The No. 8 Wolverines lost that game 41-14 and the Crimson Tide went on to win the National Championship that season.
Two Players to Watch (Offense):
Najee Harris, Junior, Running Back
The 6-2 230 pound running back out of Antioch, California is one of the many Alabama players that will have the decision of if they want to go into the NFL Draft or stay in school for their senior season after the Citrus Bowl.
Harris had a fantastic season for the Tide, running 185 times for 1,088 yards with 5.5 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns. The back also helped in the passing game, accounting for 27 receptions for 304 yards and seven touchdowns. Najee had 18 touchdowns responsible for, which was the highest out of any non-quarterback on Alabama’s roster.
In all three contest the Tide had against ranked opponents Harris ran for over 110 yards, had at least three catches and at least one touchdown. Every time Harris had over 17 carries he rushed for at least 105 yards. In addition, the Tide’s running back did a tremendous job of taking care of the football, as he did not turn the ball over once.
DeVonta Smith, Junior, Wide Receiver
Even if DeVonta Smith decides to enter the NFL Draft after the bowl game, he won’t be the first Alabama wide receiver taken, as that will be Jerry Jeudy. However, Smith has been the Tide’s most productive wideout with 65 receptions for 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns.
The 6-1 175 pound receiver has had two games of over 210 yards receiving with at least two touchdowns. Smith had 7 catches for 213 yards and two touchdowns against LSU, yet his best game came against Ole Miss in which he accounted for 11 receptions for 274 yards and five touchdowns.
In six of Alabama’s twelve games the wideout out of Amite, LA had at least 92 receiving yards. In addition, Smith has also only had two games with less than four catches and four games with multiple touchdown grabs.
It is also worth noting that the Crimson Tide are expected to have all of their offensive weapons at their disposal for the bowl game except for star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who will still be out with a hip injury.
Two Players to Watch (Defense):
Xavier McKinney, Junior, Safety
The 6-1 200 pound safety has done it all for Alabama; he has a team best 85 tackles, 55 of them being solo, which ranks 3rd best in the SEC, and four forced fumbles, which leads the SEC. McKinney has also flown around the field for three interceptions, one which was a pick six, five pass breakups, two sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.
McKinney’s play has allowed him to be named to both the All-SEC first team by the coaches and press and a third team All-American by Pro Football Focus.
The safety out of Roswell, Georgia will also now have to help pick up some of the slack left by one of Alabama’s best defensive backs Trevon Diggs who has decided not to play in the Citrus Bowl in preparation for the NFL Draft.
Anfernee Jennings, Senior, Linebacker
The senior linebacker from Dadeville, Alabama did an admirable job picking up some of the burden left by linebacker mate Dylan Moses, who was unable to play all season due to a torn ACL suffered in practice before the season.
Jennings was named to the All-SEC first team by the coaches and media due to his 7.5 sacks, which led the team, 73 tackles, 12 of which were for loss, which is tied for 4th best in the SEC and five pass breakups. The 6-3 259 pounder also had an interception and a forced fumble on the season.
The linebackers play has propelled him into a potential first round draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Like McKinney, Jennings may have to play even better in the bowl game for the Tide’s defense to be successful, as linebacker Terell Lewis, who had six sacks on the season, has also opted not to play in the Citrus Bowl.
What are you most worried about with Alabama? Does Michigan have what it takes to go blow for blow with the Tide? Comment below!!!