Wilson: Is This the Year Alabama Misses the College Football Playoff?

Wilson: Is This the Year Alabama Misses the College Football Playoff? article feature image
Credit:

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tua Tagovailoa

Alabama 2019 Betting Odds

  • National Title: +250
  • To Win SEC: -300
  • To Make The Playoff: -350
  • Win Total: 11.5 

Alabama Schedule, Projected Spreads

What to Like about Alabama

The Crimson Tide roster is loaded with NFL talent that starts with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The junior played limited action in most regular season games, still amassing 3,966 yards with 48 total touchdowns. A completion rate of 69% and sack rate of 3.5% are some of the best in the country for a quarterback.

Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy is considered the best in college football and is joined by returning starters Henry Ruggs III, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.

This group of receivers accounted for 369 targets in 2018, so I don’t expect Alabama’s rank of No. 1 in passing S&P+ to fall at all.

The rushing attack finished No. 2 in S&P+ last season and should not miss a beat with Najee Harris and Brian Robinson, who combined for over 1,000 yards last season.

The same could be said for losses on defense, where a plethora of blue chip recruits await playing time in place of departed starters. The name to watch is freshman Christian Harris after the season ending injury to Joshua McMillon.

If there is one thing to love about the Crimson Tide in 2019, it may be the strength of schedule. Per ESPN FPI, Alabama is scheduled to have the 10th easiest schedule of all teams in the SEC.

Duke, New Mexico State, Southern Miss and Tin Horn weekend make up the non-conference slate. Cross-division conference play comes against South Carolina and Tennessee.

The Tide will have a bye week before their toughest games against Texas A&M and LSU. The trickiest spot on the schedule will be post-LSU against a fresh Mississippi State.

What Could Cause Problems

Tua dealt with a knee injury most of last season, an issue that plagued him through the SEC Championship Game that required a Jalen Hurts save. The Crimson Tide lose 129 career starts on the offensive line, but did have a healthy camp rotating seven players through August.

The backup quarterback situation is not as comfortable as the past two seasons with both Tagovailoa and Hurts on the roster.

Second-string Mac Jones (a 3-star recruit in 2017) has thrown 13 career passes, while Saban will look to keep a redshirt on freshman Taulia Tagovailoa and Paul Tyson.

The health of Tua is paramount to Alabama’s title chances, moreso than in years past.

.. @AlabamaFTBL quarterback Tua Tagavailoa not at Manning Passing Academy due to slight hamstring injury – nothing serious – just kept out for precautionary measures #wgnosports

— Ed Daniels (@WGNOsports) June 28, 2019

After quarterback, the biggest red flag for Alabama is coordinators — as in the continued rotation of new faces in and out of the program.

Kirby Smart spent eight years on the job as defensive coordinator before leaving for Georgia. Since then, Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt and current Cleveland Browns defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi have held the role.

Pete Golding is the new DC, and he put up excellent defenses in his days at UTSA, leaving the Road Runners with a overall Havoc rating of 15th.

Alabama fielded a defense that was gashed by big plays on the ground and through the air last season, ending 2019 with rank of 106th in opponent IsoPPP.

On offense, new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian wants to run the ball more. Sark will be Saban’s eighth offensive coordinator at Alabama.

Ultimately, more running may hurt Tua’s numbers but keep the quarterback healthy all season.

Other Nugget(s)

If there has been a trend that is generally money in the bank, it is fading Alabama as a large favorite against non-conference teams. The Citadel was tied at halftime against the Crimson Tide last season, while Louisiana-Lafayette brought former Saban assistant Billy Napier to Tuscaloosa for a cover of the 49-point spread.

Per Bet Labs, Alabama has been a profitable fade when favored by four touchdowns or more since 2011.

Duke, New Mexico State, Southern Miss and Western Carolina will give investors chances to go against Nick Saban during the regular season.

Bets to Watch

The win total is spot on as the Action Network projected win total is 11.4. With a strength of schedule lower than most anyone in the playoff picture, there is no mathematical data to back up a season win total under.

That said, Texas A&M, LSU, Mississippi State and the Iron Bowl at Auburn present the biggest opportunities to keep Alabama out of the playoff.

With defensive health issues, new coordinators, a decision to run the ball more and new faces on the offensive line, I will be laying money against Alabama.

Both New Jersey and Las Vegas markets offer a ‘No’ proposition on Alabama for the playoff and national title. Look for Alabama to make the Playoff ‘No’ at +200 or better.

Also shop on Georgia futures for the SEC championship, as that will be a hurdle Alabama must cross to win the conference.

Assuming they get there, the game in Atlanta will be the Crimson Tide’s fourth physical game in a month after contests with LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn.

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