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Jumbo Package: Which game will be Alabama’s greatest challenge this season?

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Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

Alabama v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Happy Monday, everyone. On Friday, I linked Phil Steele’s opinion that Texas A&M will be Alabama’s toughest test this season, trailing Tuesday’s note that Barrett Sallee of CBS sports has LSU winning in Tuscaloosa. Enter Tom Fornelli, who believes that Ole Miss at Alabama will be the game of the year.

“When it comes to the game of the year, the tendency is to look for the games between the teams expected to compete for national titles,” Tom Fornelli wrote. “In that aspect, maybe a game between Alabama and Ole Miss comes as a surprise. I mean, considering that Alabama opens the season with Miami, makes an early-season trip to Florida and has standard division games against Texas A&M, LSU and Auburn, you could argue that Ole Miss is the sixth “biggest” game on its schedule.

“But it might prove to be one of the most challenging, too. You’ll remember last season when the Rebels put up 647 yards of offense against Alabama in a 63-48 loss. While Alabama has few weaknesses defensively, its most significant problems have been explosive offenses like the one Lane Kiffin has put on the field in Oxford, Mississippi. You have to outscore Alabama to beat it, and Ole Miss is one of the few offenses in the country capable of making the Tide sweat. That provides the opportunity for chaos and the potential for one of the more exciting games of the season, no matter the result.”

The Rebels certainly won’t be a pushover, but Arkansas gave the blueprint on slowing Matt Corral and company by sitting back in a soft zone and forcing him to throw through windows. Saban seemed to capitulate a bit last year after the Ole Miss game and play more zone against the better spread teams, and I expect the same this season. The question of course will be how much Alabama’s offense drops off.

An anonymous coach agreed with Steele, telling Lindy’s that Jimbo Fisher could beat Saban.

“Jimbo’s got a great offensive mind,” one anonymous coach told Lindy’s magazine in its 2021 preseason preview of the SEC. “He could be a coach that beats Nick Saban because Jimbo knows (Saban’s) defense. And Jimbo’s got the best defensive coordinator (Mike Elko) in the league, schematically and adjustment wise. He coaches his front better than anybody in the league and they play the best technically.

“Elko is to A&M what Dave Aranda was to LSU. A&M always plays good defense; they don’t ever have a bad day.”

Of course, we have already established that this is Georgia’s year again too.

“There’s no denying that we do want to win a natty,” Daniels said in the spring. “I think we have the team to do it. Obviously losing George doesn’t help you, losing an elite, elite top-tier receiver doesn’t help you, but it’s a great team. Coach Smart has done a really good job of instilling a team standard and a team DNA that a lot of guys have really taken accustom to.”

The defense has to fill in some missing pieces in the secondary and a couple spots at linebacker but the talent hasn’t changed. Georgia returns depth and experience in the trenches led by nose tackle Jordan Davis. The interior should be as talented as any in the country.

The offensive line is a concern for the Dawgs as well as the secondary, though there is talent on hand. Of course, the Tide will only face Georgia if both qualify to go to Bryant-Denny East.

So, which team do you think presents the biggest challenge on the regular season schedule next season? Answer and defend your vote in the comments.

Poll

Which game presents the biggest challenge for Alabama this season?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    Texas A&M
    (574 votes)
  • 26%
    Ole Miss
    (269 votes)
  • 4%
    LSU
    (50 votes)
  • 10%
    Florida
    (109 votes)
  • 1%
    Other, but you got some serious ‘splainin to do
    (20 votes)
1022 votes total Vote Now

Curt Cignetti recalls what it was like to coach Julio Jones.

What are your favorite Julio Jones memories? ’I think maybe it was his freshman year. We went to Georgia. It was the blackout game. They were maybe No. 3 or 4 in the country and we were 6 or something. We went in at halftime and we were up (31-0). But he had turned it on that game, made a few plays. Big plays.

‘We went down to LSU, same year. He had a lot of catches that day. Tough game and LSU was really good. He was matched against Patrick Peterson. … I remember one (catch) in particular: he caught the ball, made the guy miss and then he broke tackles. … I mean, he carried the pile. There must have been at least eight guys, eight LSU defenders in on the tackle, and he was still dragging them forward. I mean, it was incredible. And then the game went into overtime. Then on the very first play of overtime, we called his number. Slant and go, we used to call it a ‘sluggo.’ May have been press (coverage), I can’t remember. But he went up for the contested catch. I believe it was against Peterson. Made the play down at the 1 and we won the game.

‘I just remember him stepping up in the biggest games.’

Last, while nothing is final it certainly seems that Josh Primo will be staying in the draft.

“It’s been a dream of mine for the longest time,” Primo told Bilas. “Since I can remember just being a kid, being a fan of the game, running up and down, dunking on my Little Tikes net as a 2-year old. I’ve always loved the game, and being able to be in this position right now while I’m young, I really wanna be able to learn at this level and learn to be in a winning franchise, be a part of a winning team and be at that highest level. I wanna compete at the highest level, and that’s always been a dream.”

He has reportedly been a standout at the event and has a shot at going in the first round, though as noted at the link Sports Illustrated has him going in the 2nd at #37 overall. It certainly seems that he would have plenty to gain by coming back to school and improving to potentially go as high as Kira Lewis or even Collin Sexton, but there are risks involved that he has to weigh. For now all signs seem to be pointing to him leaving.

That’s about it for now. Have a great week.

Roll Tide.