Those who are waiting with bated breath for Nick Saban’s Alabama program to take a nosedive and leave the national conversation for a while won’t like this very much.
I was expecting Ohio State and Clemson as the top two teams here, and you probably were, too. But the injury that defined Bama’s 2019 season helped boost its 2020 odds. Losing quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to injury for four late games meant that backup Mac Jones got an extended audition in the starting role, and he looked mostly great. He produced a better passer rating against Auburn than LSU’s Joe Burrow and a better rating against Michigan than Ohio State’s Justin Fields.
Because the Tide return Jones’ 1,503 passing yards (plus 100 more from Taulia Tagovailoa) — not to mention the contributions of receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, running back Najee Harris, most of the offensive line, and most of the defensive front seven — they boast a better returning production ranking (88th) than Ohio State (93rd), Clemson (96th), LSU (127th), etc.
Bill notes that his preseason metrics went 58% against the spread in the first five weeks last season. Of course, advanced metrics loved the Tide last season too, as usual. Alabama will once again have to avoid the land mines on the schedule, which is never easy in an increasingly difficult SEC West, but they will be favored to do just that. Hope for the best.