Miami vs. Alabama College Football Odds, Picks: The First-Half Bet to Make in Week 1 (Saturday, Sept. 4)
Alika Jenner/Getty Images. Pictured: John Metchie.
- The Miami Hurricanes and Alabama Crimson Tide are set to kick off their 2021 seasons on Saturday afternoon.
- With Nick Saban, Manny Diaz, Bryce Young, and D'Eriq King on the field, there will be plenty of firepower and playmakers on the field.
- Check out Collin Wilson's betting guide for the game below, complete with updated odds and a pick.
Miami vs. Alabama Betting Odds
Bigger than the Independence and Cheez-It bowls, this might be the biggest game for the Miami Hurricanes in the Manny Diaz era.
The measuring stick for a college football team is Alabama, and Miami gets a chance to see just how close — or far away — the program is from national-title contention.
And if there is a time to catch the Crimson Tide potentially not in their prime, the first game of the season after a mass departure in talent is ideal.
Meanwhile, Nick Saban continues to shatter records.
Not only did the Alabama head coach go undefeated in the first-ever 10-game conference schedule to win the SEC title, but the 2020 national championship also made him the winningest coach of all time.
Only one more goal is on the table, as Saban is now tied with legendary Crimson Tide coach Bear Bryant in national titles in Tuscaloosa. Alabama brings back a top-10 defense, but questions on offense persist after multiple departures in every unit to the NFL.
The Hurricanes finished the 2020 pandemic season at 8-3 with losses to ranked North Carolina and Clemson. The Cheez-It Bowl loss to Oklahoma State continued the questions about Diaz’s ability to win in big games.
One area of improvement was the offense with transfer D’Eriq King and coordinator Rhett Lashlee leading the way.
Diaz continued to call multiple variations of the 4-2-5 defense but with declining results. Although the defense returns 90%, per TARP, the Hurricanes fell to 68th in Success Rate and 75th in Finishing Drives.
The signature of a Diaz defense is Havoc, and the Hurricanes were par for the course, ranking 12th on the 2020 season. The creators of chaos return and face their biggest challenge yet with Alabama.
Lashlee brought tempo and efficiency to a Miami offense that inherited the biggest prize in the portal with King.
The results were immediate with a tempo and Finishing Drives rank each in the top 20. The Hurricanes ran 11 personnel on 70% of snaps, quickly moving to a two-back 12 set depending on opposing defenses.
With King in control, Miami saw an increase in explosive plays.
The subject of King’s knee has been the entire talk of camp. The senior has claimed 100% health throughout the summer after an ACL tear. King made multiple cuts on the open field during scrimmages, signifying he is ready for the Crimson Tide defense.
The ability to run is the most important element to the Canes offense, as King generated 27 missed tackles in 85 rushing attempts. The passing attack is just as important, as he tossed an impressive 23 big-time throws against seven turnover-worthy plays.
King gets every target and lineman back on offense with an additional weapon in wide receiver Charleston Rambo from Oklahoma via the transfer portal.
With backup quarterbacks Tyler Van Dyke and Jake Garcia on the sidelines, King is easily the most valuable player to any team in the FBS.
Training camp led to a few defensive swaps in the two-deep after rosters were released earlier this week.
The defensive line will see the same names in the starting lineup, bringing handfuls of tackles for loss and sacks. While the unit lagged in opponent Rushing Success Rate, the Hurricanes owned the trench with a rank of 21st in Line Yards.
Expect big things from Jahfari Harvey at Miami this year.. looked really good in his one start in the bowl game last year.. Canes defense needs to replace Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche pic.twitter.com/GIQ1AKEbDd
— Ryan McCrystal (@Ryan_McCrystal) June 28, 2021
The linebacker unit will field fresh faces, which may be a point of attack for the Crimson Tide offense. Both Corey Flagg and Keontra Smith saw limited snaps in 2020 but are expected to provide the speed needed to keep up with the Alabama skill positions.
The secondary is deep in returning experience, but if the freshman quarterback for the Tide lives up to the hype, a rank of 80th in coverage must improve for the linebackers.
Saban fielded one of the best college football teams in history through a pandemic. Alabama completed an undefeated season with a 9-4 mark against the spread.
To the victor go the spoils, as Alabama returns just 26% on the offensive side of the ball. Mass departures on the offensive line, skill positions and quarterback will be a challenge for new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.
Alongside Clemson and Georgia, the Crimson Tide may field the best defense in the nation. Alabama returns 76% of a stop unit that ranked 26th in Success Rate and top-20 in Finishing Drives and Havoc.
Every playmaker from the back seven returns, with the exception of Dylan Moses and Patrick Surtain. That leaves openings for blue-chip talent to step in and create highlights for NFL scouts.
If Alabama is to repeat as national champions, the defense must exceed outstanding 2020 numbers.
Crimson Tide Offense
Despite the losses on the roster, the offense will not undergo a scheme change as O’Brien takes the reigns from Steve Sarkisian.
Alabama primarily runs the 11 personnel but had an increase in two-tight end sets through the years under Sark. The Crimson Tide ran 12 personnel on 22% of snaps in 2019, a number that moved to 45% last season.
Alabama listed three different starters on the depth chart at tight end, as last year’s starter, Jahleel Billingsley, started fall camp with disciplinary action.
“I’ve been sworn into secrecy with the advice he’s talked to me about.”
— Trill Pinarski (@philpinarski) August 30, 2021
Bryce Young takes over at quarterback after the Crimson Tide fielded household names in Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts and Mac Jones. The sample from last season is minimal with 31 dropbacks, and he recorded one big-time throw and three turnover-worthy plays.
Saban has been more than pleased with the development of Young through camp but notes that timing and accuracy are persistent issues that are “on both the passer and route-runner.’
Young will have new faces on the offensive line and at the wide receiver position.
Slade Bolden, JoJo Earle and Jameson Williams will join proven explosive target John Metchie. The pipeline is always full of blue-chip talent at the offensive skill positions, a point that will be on full display against Miami.
Crimson Tide Defense
The defense remains largely unchanged under coordinator Pete Golding, a coach who consistently fields teams that are top-25 in Havoc back through his time at UTSA.
There are new faces to watch in the multiple 3-3-5 schemes, including Justin Eboigbe and Phidarian Mathis, who had limited time at the edge position.
Thanks to Tennessee and the transfer portal, Alabama brought in the best free agent on the market with Henry To’oTo’o.
— Davey Hudson (@Davey_Hudson) September 27, 2020
With Surtain moving on to the NFL, Alabama is expected to field true freshman Kool-Aid McKinstry. Loaded is probably an understatement when it comes to the weapons Saban and Golding will have at their disposal this fall.
If there is an area that might be a level below elite, it’s the defensive line.
Alabama finished 56th in Line Yards and 34th in Opponent Rushing Success Rate. The 3-3-5 defense is built to confuse opposing quarterbacks in passing downs and depends on a nose tackle to fill the gaps around the center.
Offenses may get away with running between the tackles, but top-20 ranks in tackling and Finishing Drives suggest the Crimson Tide defense always shows up with their backs against the end zone.
Miami vs. Alabama Matchup Analysis
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Miami Offense vs. Alabama Defense
Alabama Offense vs. Miami Defense
Pace of Play / Other
Miami vs. Alabama Betting Pick
The handicap comes down to King’s knee versus an Alabama defense that can shut down any explosive attack in the country. The handicap on beating Miami comes down to tackling in space.
When King can force missed tackles and create deep passes on scramble attempts, it’s a strength for Lashlee’s offense. The problem for Miami is that this is the best back seven defense it will face the entire season.
This exact scenario played out for the Hurricanes last season against Clemson. Taking out a 56-yard run in the second quarter, King ran for just 28 yards on 13 attempts against the Tigers defense. Like Clemson, Alabama does not miss opportunities to tackle in space.
The Alabama offense is increasingly moving to a 12 personnel that averages more rush attempts than pass. Will Saban and O’Brien elect to throw straight into the heart of an excellent secondary for Miami? The weakness of the Hurricanes defense is the linebackers, which can be tested with short throws over the middle and a steady diet of screens.
Considering Miami’s point of attack is at a fresh defensive line for Alabama, explosive plays may be at a minimum at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Interestingly enough, Alabama has scored a combined 17 points in the first quarter of opening nonconference games against Duke, Florida State and Louisville.