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Jumbo Package: AP Poll released, Alabama opens outside top 3 for the first time since 2009

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

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NCAA Football: Alabama Spring Game Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Tuesday, everyone. The AP poll was released yesterday, and Alabama ranks outside the top 3 to open the season for the first time since 2009. Alex Scarbrough notes what he’ll be looking for out of Alabama in the first month of the season.

What we’ll learn about Alabama in September: What the new offense will look like. This isn’t as simple as deciding who will replace Bryce Young at quarterback, whether it’s last season’s backups Jalen Milroe and Ty Simpson, or Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner. This is about picking a direction for this season and beyond. Will Alabama continue to be so reliant on the passing game — as it had become with Young, Mac Jones and Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback — or will it return to the more balanced approach of years past in which the running game sets the tone? New coordinator Tommy Rees, who also comes from Notre Dame, has shown more pro-style leanings when compared to previous Alabama OCs, lining up more under center and running more between the tackles. Backs Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams return, and should pair nicely with freshmen Richard Young and Justice Haynes, the Nos. 1 and 2 backs in the 2023 class, respectively. A ball-control style of offense could help more than whoever steps up at quarterback. It should also benefit the defense when it goes against up-tempo offenses like Texas (Week 2) and Ole Miss (Week 4). — Alex Scarborough

Some more poll reactions for you:

Here comes Alabama, regardless of who Nick Saban’s quarterback is. The program went with some changes in the offseason, bringing in Tommy Rees as the offensive coordinator and Kevin Steele as the DC.

The quarterback competition isn’t done yet, and it could be one of three guys, but Alabama regularly produces a lot of NFL talent. It could be a revenge tour type of season after missing out on the College Football Playoff.

Roll Tide: SEC contender Alabama is once again within striking distance of the top spot, coming off a two-loss effort last season and missing out on the College Football Playoff, with major roster turnover to work with as Nick Saban installs two new coordinators and a replacement for Bryce Young at quarterback.

Nick Kelly examines the competition at left tackle, and wonders if Kadyn Proctor will be ready to start right away.

Kadyn Proctor

The upside is high. He was the No. 1 tackle in the 2023 recruiting class and a five-star prospect, per the 247Sports Composite. Whether he can unlock that upside fast enough to become Alabama’s starter this season as a true freshman remains to be seen.

Proctor has shown flashes of being a quality left tackle, but he might not be ready to take that spot in the opener against Middle Tennessee. The key for him will be acclimating to the college game, specifically what it requires physically. It can take time for freshmen to get in the condition they need to be to handle 60 minutes of college football.

Personally I will consider it a major surprise if he isn’t The Man.

Stewart Mandel wrote about realignment, stating the obvious: Big Football is effectively breaking off from everything else.

“I think the future has to contemplate football being taken out of the mix,” Nebraska AD Trev Alberts told the Lincoln Journal Star last week. “We’re moving to a 35 to 40 top brands being part of something. If you just look at football in isolation, eventually conferences will matter less in a sense.”

Alberts is right, though he’s being generous with 35 to 40. If the past three years have taught us anything, it’s that TV networks’ thirst for more “big events” is leading to two super-conferences hoarding nearly all the biggest national brands. Everyone else is collateral damage.

Last, Dan Wetzel sees at least some benefit to all this madness.

Just 17 additional regular-season games had more than five million viewers, almost all of them featuring traditional powers. Alabama, for example, had seven of its 12 regular-season games reach five million or more.

As such, television executives are trying to force these teams to play each other more often — all while saving money by grouping them in a couple of conferences, aka bundles. It’s led to plenty of understandable angst.

It will, however, deliver seasons in the future with more can’t-miss games and, truth be told, college football could use more can’t-miss games.

For those counting, that means that a full 41% of the nation’s most viewed games last season featured Alabama. Some watch to see them win and some to see them lose, but they all watch.

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

Roll Tide.