Each week during the season, the USA TODAY Sports college staff (Nicole Auerbach, Paul Myerberg, George Schroeder and Dan Wolken) will provide their answers to on an intriguing question from college football. This week:
Can anyone beat Alabama during the regular season? Who is it going to be and why?
I know history tells us there’s a good chance Alabama will lose a game and not finish the regular season undefeated, but I just don’t see it. Not this year, not with the gap that seems to exist between Alabama and the rest of the SEC.
What I believe are the toughest games left on Bama’s schedule are this weekend’s game against Texas A&M and then Auburn on Nov. 26, both in Tuscaloosa. Though I hope and expect those two games to be more competitive than some of Alabama’s other “big games” to date, I just don’t see an actual upset happening. Not with this defense, and the way this offense looks with Jalen Hurts.
Lots of teams (well, the seven teams left before the College Football Playoff) can beat Alabama. Anyone can beat anyone, within reason, on any given Saturday. But count me among the bunch that believes Alabama is going to run the table into the Playoff.
The Crimson Tide are overwhelming favorites for Saturday’s game against No. 6 Texas A&M. It’ll be the same at LSU and at Auburn. Based on what we’ve seen — complete and utter dominance — there’s no team left with the complete game needed to top the Tide.
It’s tempting, given how Alabama has rolled through its first seven games, to fast-forward the Crimson Tide unbeaten into the Playoff. The second part is going to happen. But Alabama’s still very likely to pick up a loss along the way. It might not be Saturday, when No. 6 Texas A&M visits Tuscaloosa — though it could happen then.
Despite a roster loaded with talent, all adhering to Nick Saban’s “The Process,” these are 18-to-22-year-old humans, not automatons. They can’t perform at the highest level every week. And if emotions fluctuate, balls also take funny bounces. Going unbeaten is hard.
You wanted to know when Bama might lose? Who knows — but just for fun, let’s go with Nov. 26 against rival Auburn. And if Bama does roll through unscathed? Sorry, but that’s not only a testament to the strength of the Tide. It’s also an indictment of the rest of the SEC.
Yes, Alabama absolutely can be beaten. For one thing, it’s just hard to go undefeated and play well enough to win for 12 consecutive games. Even Nick Saban’s best teams have faced adversity at some point, whether it was losing to Ole Miss two years in a row or surviving some close calls in SEC play. Despite the scores they’ve put up, I’m not totally convinced this is one of Saban’s best teams, and I think a good defense can make it tough for Jalen Hurts in the passing game where he is still developing.
The biggest key to beating Alabama will be avoiding turnovers and making sure they don't get a special teams touchdown. It’s not easy to do, but I think Alabama will face one of those games here down the stretch. Oddly enough, I have a hunch the most likely team to beat Alabama might be Auburn.
When you look at how well the Auburn defense played against Clemson and Deshaun Watson, there's a good blueprint there for what they might be able to do against a quarterback like Hurts who can really make things happen with his legs.