Alabama Football: Final Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions
In less than two short weeks, the Alabama football team will finally hit the field in a competitive game against somebody other than itself for the first time since a crushing 45-31 loss to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl to end the 2013 season.
Can the Crimson Tide get back to the top of the college football mountain?
That will be the question on just about everybody’s mind during the 2014 season. The talent is certainly there, but Alabama also has more question marks than it has had in recent memory—not the least of which is at the game’s most important position.
And so, as things stand right now, here are our final Alabama game-by-game predictions for the 2014 season.
West Virginia (Atlanta)
Two years ago, when this game was scheduled, it looked like a pretty juicy matchup with the Mountaineers’ high-octane offense coming off of a 70-point performance against Clemson.
Now? Not so much. West Virginia went 4-8 last year and hardly looks like the offensive juggernaut it used to be.
The story for Alabama, though, will be the quarterbacks.
Blake Sims and Jacob Coker figure to split reps pretty evenly in Atlanta, in the first opportunity to publicly see both guys perform next to each other.
It won’t be the smoothest of opening acts—much like a 35-10 win over Virginia Tech was last year—but Alabama will never be threatened in this one.
Prediction: Alabama 35, West Virginia 7
Vs. Florida Atlantic
Alabama will continue to operate under the shroud of its quarterback battle in its home opener. Maybe one outplayed the other in the opener, but Nick Saban will be in no hurry to name a permanent starter, with two cupcake games ahead before Alabama’s SEC opener.
Florida Atlantic should be much improved under coach Charlie Partridge and could be a player at the lower FBS level. That won’t be nearly good enough, though, to make this a competitive game in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The Crimson Tide gets to have about a quarter of playing time for some of its younger players, and maybe we even see Cooper Bateman or Alec Morris under center for a series or two.
Alabama wins handily.
Prediction: Alabama 38, FAU 3
Vs. Southern Miss
Alabama has another week to get better and its opponent gets weaker. The Golden Eagles are coming off of a 1-11 season, with its lone win against sorry UAB to end the year.
But this game will, more than the first two, be about the quarterbacks, as Coker and Sims will have one more chance to impress the coaches before the Crimson Tide’s SEC opener, where they will likely want to get away from the two-quarterback system that can survive against weaker opponents.
We’ll probably have some idea of who will win the job by now, but Southern Miss represents one last chance to see them both in action, side by side.
Oh, and last time Alabama and Southern Miss met, we were treated to one of the greatest plays in Crimson Tide history.
Prediction: Alabama 49, Southern Miss 0
For the first time all season, Alabama fans’ focus can somewhat shift away from the quarterbacks.
How will the offensive line fare against Florida’s pass rush? Can the Crimson Tide’s inexperienced secondary hold up against the Gators’ passing attack? Can the run game get anything going against Florida’s interior?
These storylines and plenty more make Alabama’s SEC opener much tougher than in years past, when it’s typically started against SEC West bottom-dweller Arkansas.
The Crimson Tide should be finally settled on its starting quarterback, and this game should be a good barometer for his eventual success, as the Gators boast one of the best cornerback tandems in the SEC.
Enjoy it while it lasts. Alabama won’t see Florida in the regular season again until 2021.
Prediction: Alabama 31, Florida 24
At Ole Miss
After a bye week, Alabama opens a stretch of four of its next five games on the road, starting with a doozy at Ole Miss.
The Rebels were shut out in Tuscaloosa in 2013, but they bring a much-improved team on both sides of the ball back home to Oxford, where Ole Miss took down LSU last season.
An experienced Bo Wallace and a star in LaQuaon Treadwell make for a difficult passing combination for the Alabama secondary. C.J. Johnson and Robert Nkemdiche lead a defensive line that could create problems for the run game.
And the quarterback will have to deal with Cody Prewitt and Tony Conner at safety.
Even with a week to prepare, this matchup screams “trap game,” and it could be a wake-up call for the 2014 Alabama football team.
Prediction: Ole Miss 35, Alabama 31
After two SEC slugfests, Alabama gets to go on the road to face an improved but still weak Arkansas team.
Alex Collins and Jonathan Thompson combine for a fine running back combination, and tight end Hunter Henry could cause problems in the passing game.
But the Razorbacks still have plenty of question marks, like whether it can get consistent quarterback play out of Brandon Allen.
It won’t quite be the two straight 52-0 wins Alabama has enjoyed before, but this one won’t be close.
Prediction: Alabama 42, Arkansas 10
Vs. Texas A&M
Take a deep breath, Alabama fans. Johnny Manziel can’t terrify your team any longer.
Manziel came in two years ago and essentially hosted his own coming-out party, leading the Aggies to a stunning upset of the Crimson Tide.
New quarterback Kenny Hill will be good, but not good enough to make up for that massive hole on offense.
Alabama should be able to have a field day on offense with the Aggies already weak, but now depleted defense. If its defense can get a couple of stops, the Crimson Tide should be in good shape.
Prediction: Alabama 45, Texas A&M 24
The third Saturday in October has gotten pretty flat as of late, and even with a program seemingly headed in the right direction under Butch Jones, that probably won’t change in 2014.
The Volunteers lose all of their starters on both lines, and Justin Worley has yet to prove himself as a consistent starting quarterback in the SEC.
Speaking of quarterbacks, Alabama should be off and running with its quarterback by now. If all goes according to plan, he’s firmly comfortable in the system by now and running the offense well.
As for this game, UT beat South Carolina and gave Georgia a scare in Knoxville last year, but Alabama shouldn’t have trouble in Neyland Stadium.
Prediction: Alabama 34, Tennessee 17
Alabama and LSU have produced some doozies since Nick Saban came back to the SEC and joined LSU’s divisional rival, particularly in Tiger Stadium.
2014 shouldn’t be any different.
Both immensely talented teams should be clicking on all cylinders come November 8, which should make for a fantastic game. The quarterback will be dealing with one of the most hostile environments in the SEC, and Alabama’s defense will have to handle a punishing running attack featuring what should be a seasoned Leonard Fournette.
Les Miles also should have a few tricks up his sleeve like he always does in Baton Rouge. The Crimson Tide’s weaknesses are exposed once again.
Prediction: LSU 28, Alabama 24
Vs. Mississippi State
This is always a tricky one for Alabama.
The Crimson Tide are usually coming off of a physical affair against LSU, while gearing up for the Iron Bowl. It creates a lackluster performance for Alabama but still a win against a less-talented Mississippi State team.
The Tide can’t get too comfortable against these Bulldogs.
Mississippi State boasts one of the best defensive lines in the SEC, led by Chris Jones. Dak Prescott is poised to take a step forward under center.
Alabama will have a bit of a down performance, especially after its second loss of the season, but home-field advantage takes this one.
Prediction: Alabama 28, MSU 10
Vs. Western Carolina
Alabama gets one last tuneup before its season finale with Auburn. After a stale game against Mississippi State, the Crimson Tide is looking to put two losses behind them and gear up for an epic rematch.
The offense executes well, and the defense pitches a shutout. The starters are off the field by the end of the third quarter.
And because of the parity in the SEC West, a couple of other games go the right way this week, leaving Alabama still with a chance to win the division.
Prediction: Alabama 52, Western Carolina 0
If last year was the mother of all Iron Bowls, this one will be the mother of all rematches.
Alabama will no doubt have revenge on its mind from last year’s stunning defeat at the hands of Chris Davis’ field-goal return for a touchdown.
The Crimson Tide hasn’t exactly had the season it had hoped for but still has a chance to take down Auburn and win the division.
Nick Saban and Kirby Smart have spent all season planning to stop Nick Marshall, Gus Malzahn and Auburn’s fast-paced attack. And Alabama’s offense takes advantage of the loss of Dee Ford to the NFL and Carl Lawson to ACL surgery to run the ball effectively.
It’s another epic showdown, but the Crimson Tide comes out on top.
Prediction: Alabama 31, Auburn 28