This season in college football, there have been a lot of ups and downs for the majority of teams. Some, like Florida State, have utterly disappointed with their play and given the fans a big letdown. Others, like Miami, have surprised through defeating inferior competition on a consistent basis. Through it all, one thing has remained constant since week 1: Alabama’s place at the top of CFB’s pyramid.
Entering their bye week, they hold an 8-0 record and have utterly dominated just about every opponent they’ve played. With a suffocating defense led by Minkah Fitzpatrick, they don’t let the competition get any momentum early in the game. Additionally, an overpowering running game led by dual-threat QB Jalen Hurts and underrated RB Damien Harris helps take pressure off the D and put teams away early. With such an all-around great team, it bears asking: does anyone have what it takes to stop Alabama’s quest at redeeming their National Championship loss and running the table to the title?
Earlier, I wrote about potential SEC teams that were capable of pulling it off. At this point, it’s safe to say the only in-conference team that even has a chance is Georgia. Also undefeated this year, the Bulldogs have a stout running game led by RB Nick Chubb and an underrated defense with players like linebacker Lorenzo Carter. They’ve gotten a bit lucky with the quick development of QB Jake Frohm, and like their SEC West counterparts, there haven’t really been many opponents who have closely contested them. With that being said, Georgia hasn’t played a team that even resembles the challenge Alabama would present them. Offensively, the only team close to the Tide’s running game is Notre Dame, but ND QB Brandon Wimbush is not nearly as good at throwing the ball as Jalen Hurts. Defensively, ‘Bama brings one of the top rushing defenses in the country to the table, and relying on Frohm to carry the team is something they have not had to do yet, making this potential situation perilous. We may get a chance to see this matchup, as both are currently in-line to play for the SEC Championship. While I like Georgia’s team, I don’t believe they have enough to beat the Tide.
Outside the SEC, I can only think of three teams – each with a distinctive flaw – that would even have a chance against Alabama: Clemson, Penn State and Notre Dame. Clemson’s got one of the best defensive lines in the country, which would help stagnate Damien Harris and co. However, their secondary doesn’t have any standout playmakers like it has had in recent years, and with the offense not having played any stellar defenses to this point in the season, you wonder how impactful it would be in this matchup. Penn State is on this list for two reasons: 1) Saquon Barkley, and 2) Saquon Barkley. Barkley is the best player in the nation by a wide margin, and he makes even the best defenders look like they belong in a D-4 high school game. Still, being overly-reliant upon one player is never a good strategy, and Saban will have a game plan in-place to stop the elite runner. Finally, ND makes the list because they have an extremely similar duo to Hurts and Harris in QB Brandon Wimbush and RB Josh Adams. They are, however, a slightly lesser duo to these two, and they’d have a more difficult time dealing with Alabama’s defense than their counterparts would with ND’s defense.
If I had to rank all four of these potential contenders, I’d probably go Clemson, Georgia, Notre Dame and Penn State in last. However, with Alabama’s team being built the way it is, I don’t believe any of them will actually be able to do the job. At the end of the day, I see Alabama winning yet another title under Nick Saban following an undefeated season.
All stats and info courtesy ESPN.
Cover photo courtesy cloudfront.net.