There are several really interesting games this weekend like Clemson versus Georgia, LSU at UCLA, and Notre Dame at Florida State. Do not sleep on the Alabama versus Miami game, however. The new players involved make this a unique matchup. That’s why Inside The Knights chose to analyze this game over all other games this weekend.
Crimson Tide and Hurricanes, the first game for Alabama to defend its national title, while Miami looks to rebound after a poor ending to the 2020 season. There will be several storylines to follow throughout this contest.
Alabama’s new quarterback, a running back that waited his turn to be the man, Miami’s star quarterback needing to be a star of stars tonight, and the Hurricanes needing their offensive line to make a marked improvement all come into play. Let’s dig in!
Alabama Versus Miami, 3:30 EST - Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta
Another year, another top-ranked Alabama team. The Crimson Tide lost a plethora of talent from the 2020 National Championship team, but there’s good reason to believe the Crimson Tide will be back in contention for another championship run.
First off, this contest will be a chance to see yet another Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei signal caller takes place this evening, as Bryce Young takes the starting job as a sophomore. Former Mater Dei quarterbacks include Matt Leinhart and Matt Barkley (both attended Southern California), among others, before going on to the NFL.
Coming out of the famed Mater Dei program just on the edge of Los Angeles, Young was the quarterback for SI All-American’s Inaugural All-America Team and a national recruit. After his decommitment from nearby Southern California, Young Chose to sign with Alabama.
Young is a precision passer with a really quick release. He’s known for making really good pre-snap reads and throwing the football to the best option. If he continues to do what he is known for, Alabama’s passing offense should be just fine this afternoon.
Now in his second season, he leads the Crimson Tide into battle against the Hurricanes, a team that’s been topsy-turvy. Miami has not produced a season record with fewer than three losses since 2003 when it finished 11-2. At least staying close with Alabama would be a sign that the Hurricanes are heading in the right direction.
Can the Hurricanes finally right the ship and contend with a program like Alabama? It starts with defense if Miami wants to be competitive. Can the Hurricanes play the type of defense necessary to keep Alabama under 40 points? It will certainly be a challenge.
Key Notes: Last season, Alabama scored fewer than 40 points only twice. For Alabama, the first game of the season, at Missouri, produced 38 points, and the College Football Playoff Semi-Final, versus Notre Dame, produced 31 points. Every other game saw the Crimson Tide generate 41 or more points.
For Miami, the Hurricanes started the season 8-1, only to falter by losing their last two games. Which Miami defense shows up will be the pivotal point to watch. Against North Carolina, Miami was butchered, at home no less, losing 62 to 26. Coming up short in the bowl game to Oklahoma State 37 to 34 did not leave a good memory from last season either.
Questions to be Answered: Alabama is likely to score over 30 points, but can Young be a true commander during his first big test and push the Crimson Tide past 40 points? He’s going up against a defense that gave up 99 points during their last two games of the 2020 season, but it’s 2021 now. How these teams transition from the prior football season will be the determining factor for Alabama’s offensive production.
Reminder: Young is just that, young, and his inexperience could lead to a couple of turnovers. If not, look for Alabama’s offense to be potent against Miami. He has a ton of talent around him, including a talented running back stable.
Player that Miami Must Slow Down: Alabama running back Brian Robinson, Jr. gains a chance to be the main runner after being the second team running back in 2020 and rushing for 483 yards and six touchdowns while backing up Najee Harris (first round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers). He’s quick, powerful and excellent at creating yards after contact. Look for Robinson to carry the football 15 or more times against the Hurricanes.
Additionally, Alabama’s depth at running back will be important. Trey Sanders and Jase McClellan could see plenty of action as well. Sanders is more of a traditional downhill runner while McClellan can be used in a variety of ways. Both should see action against Miami.
Player Alabama Must Slow Down: Miami running back Cam’Ron Harris only averaged 11.5 carries per game last season (way too low for his talent level). When Harris did get the football he proved just how dynamic he could be. The now senior running back averaged 5.1 yards per carry behind a so-so offensive line last season, and looks to earn even more opportunities to run the football this season.
If he gets more touches, and the offensive line does their job, Harris could produce some big plays against the Crimson Tide. He’s a touchdown waiting to happen. Harris attributed 10 rushing touchdowns last season, including at least one rushing touchdown in each of the last four games Miami played.
This young man is a future NFL player and the Miami coaching staff must find creative ways to place the football in his hands. At minimum, Harris needs 20 touches against Alabama for Miami to be in contention come the fourth quarter.
For Miami, D’Eriq King Must Be Dynamic: Anything less than a Herculean effort will not be enough. King's ability to make plays in the passing game will keep Alabama's defense from solely focusing on Harris. He must also help make up for the overall talent gap between the two football teams. Passing, as well as running, King must make big plays.
Obviously he needs really good blocking to make that happen. Is that realistic? Miami’s crutch over the past several years has often been its offensive line. Can the Miami line keep the Crimson Tide front seven away from King, as well as open up running and passing lanes? That's debatable.
When King moves out of the pocket, that could be the type of play that makes the biggest impact on the game. He can run or throw when on the move, but he needs to make good decisions and create chunk-yardage plays for the Hurricanes while not throwing interceptions.
Last season King threw 23 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. He’s been trustworthy with the football for Miami, and he will need to continue to play that way against Alabama.
Will Anderson, the Player America Will Soon Know About: One of the most athletic players in the country, the Alabama edge defender will be a threat to King every time he comes off the edge. Will Anderson is a future top 10 pick in the NFL Draft, but he’s only a sophomore so he will not be eligible to turn pro until after the 2022 season. His coming out party, nationally speaking, will begin tonight.
Anderson started as a true freshman for Alabama. He recorded seven sacks during 13 games, and he’s just going to get better this season. His first step is electric. Keep an eye on No. 31 for the Crimson Tide.
Look for Miami to play competitive football for much of the game. At some point, however, Miami will not be albe to keep up. It will be Alabam’s rushing attack, as well as a few big defensive plays, that lead the Crimson Tide to victory.
Miami will put up a good fight for the better part of three quarters, but Alabama’s front seven will be too much for Miami to consistently block for Harris and King. More specifically, too many drives will be cut short because of Alabama defenders making plays at or behind the line of scrimmage.
On the other side of the football, Young will throw for over 300 yards, but much of that total will stem from a couple of 50-plus yard plays generated by Alabama’s talent at wide receiver and play calling as much as it is Young’s right arm. Robinson should be a consistent threat as well, as his ability to complement the passing game will keep the Miami defense honest. The ‘Tide offense will score over 40 points, and that’s the bottom line.
Alabama 44 Miami 21
Moving on to other key matchups, here are seven additional score predictions.
Clemson 34 Georgia 31
Notre Dame 34 Florida State 20
LSU 38 UCLA 27
Wisconsin 31 Penn State 27
Kansas State 30 Stanford 21
Indiana 38 Iowa 28
Louisiana 34 Texas 31 -- Upset Alert
Clemson 34 Georgia 31
Notre Dame 34 Florida State 20 (Sunday night kickoff)