If you read the site frequently, you probably already know where this is going. During Alabama's bye week, I decided to share my thoughts on which teams had the best opportunity to beat Alabama (the complete article can be found here). Here's a basic run-down of how this works if you don't want to read the previous article and want a little insight into my patented Threat Level system:
I rate each team Alabama has yet to play on a 1-10 scale based on the threat they pose to Alabama of handing the Tide a loss. The system is based on what I think and see and know and believe. A rating of 10 is a near-certain loss. A rating of 1 is a near-certain win.
Now that we have the description out of the way, I'll give you a brief recap of how I rated the teams nearly a month ago:
at Ole Miss (October 4) Threat Level: 7
at Arkansas (October 11) Threat Level: 2.5
vs. Texas A&M (October 18) Threat Level: 9.1
at Tennessee (October 25) Threat Level: 3.2
at LSU (November 8) Threat Level: 8.0
vs. Mississippi State (November 15) Threat Level: 5.5
vs. Western Carolina (November 22) Threat Level: -_-
vs. Auburn (November 29) Threat Level: 9.5
So, I may have completely whiffed on A&M, and I clearly didn't give Ole Miss enough credit (though I did say they had a chance at pulling the upset #humblebrag). Regardless, those threat levels were given 1/4th of the way through the season. Sample sizes were small, and most of the teams had yet to play a quality SEC team up to that point.
Now that we have entered the meat grinder of SEC play, I figure updated threat level predictions are in order. Some teams have shown that they are legitimate national championship contenders (Hello, state of Mississippi!) while others have shown some regression (LSU?). Without further ado, let me update the threat levels for the teams Alabama has yet to play.
at Tennessee (October 25) Threat Level: 3.2
This threat level prediction is one of the few that I still feel confident about. Tennessee has shown more regression than improvement since I wrote my initial prediction. The Vols put up a fight against Georgia but got blown out last week on the road against Ole Miss. The home loss to Florida is looking worse as the dumpster fire rages on in Gainesville.
Tennessee has some serious playmakers in freshman running back Jalen Hurd and the receiving tandem of Marquez North and Pig Howard, but the offensive line has been abysmal (4.29 sacks allowed per game - tied for 123rd in the nation). Quarterback Justin Worley has also shown serious regression including last week's 3 interception outing against the Rebels in which he only threw for 191 yards.
With that being said, SEC road games are never easy, and the Alabama offense has shown that they are much more comfortable playing in BDS than on the road (check out this week's Charting the Tide for more on this). Alabama will look to continue their improvement this week and jump all over a Tennessee team that is fighting for bowl eligibility. While this rivalry can never be overlooked, the improvement of Alabama combined with the recent struggles of the Vols makes this game look hard to lose for the Crimson Tide.
at LSU (November 8) Threat Level: 7.5
Which LSU team is for real? The Tigers lost at home to Mississippi State 34-29 in a game that was not as close as the final score suggests. Two weeks later, LSU went to Auburn and was promptly sent packing with a 41-7 blowout loss. After surviving the derp-fest that was a 30-27 win on the road against Florida, many people, myself included, thought a 5-1 Kentucky team had a real shot of going into Tiger Stadium and beating LSU. The Tigers bounced back. though, with a resounding 41-3 win.
Despite the quarterback struggles, LSU can't be overlooked. LSU's running backs put on a clinic against Kentucky grinding out 303 yards. Freshman running back Leonard Fournette is averaging 5 yards per carry and Terrence Magee is quietly having an outstanding season (6 yards per carry including 127 yards on nine carries with 2 touchdowns against Kentucky).
The Tigers host Ole Miss on Saturday night in Death Valley. This game will prove if Les Miles has righted the ship and turned this team into a real threat. Even if LSU ends up losing to the Rebels, a road game against LSU should scare everyone. This rivalry has been the premier game in the SEC for the past few years and Alabama can never expect to leave Baton Rouge with an easy win.