What needs to happen for the Alabama Crimson Tide to win national title

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Given the right circumstances, the Crimson Tide will retake their place at the top of the college football world.

Sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts showed intelligence and talent last season, giving fans a lot to look forward to as Hurts matures as a player. 

Here is why Hurts and the rest of the Tide will be National Champions in 2018.

Top-flight recruiting class

Nick Saban is bringing in one of the most talented recruiting classes in Crimson Tide history.

The biggest story for the Tide is incoming running back Najee Harris. He’s 6-foot-2, 224 pounds and is ranked as the third best RB in the 2017 class.

His story is interesting, having been homeless for a portion of his life and moving from place to place. More on his past can be found here.

Five-star offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood and 5-star offensive linebacker Dylan Moses, as well as four 4-star offensive linemen will start this year at Bama.

Alabama also brings in an impressive young receiving corps, headed by WR Jerry Jeudy, a five-star recruit out of Florida, and three 4-star wide receivers and a 4-star tight end.

JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM Saint Louis slotback Tosh Kekahuna-Kalawe (4) tries to elude Punahou defensive back Aaron Woo (12) and defensive back Marist Liufau (7)  during the second half.
There’s a lot of buzz surrounding incoming quarterback Tua Tagovailoa–will he be able to challenge Hurts? Photo via Jamm Aquino/jaquino@staradvertiser.com

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, a 5-star recruit out of Hawaii, will challenge Hurts at his own game, and there’s nothing wrong with a little competition from the two to decide who is the better quarterback.

Can the Crimson Tide reload on defense?

Bama only allowed 13.7 points per game, the best in the FBS. They also had 11 defensive touchdowns last year, as well as 54 team sacks. They were one of the best defensives of all time last season, proved by this ESPN article. 

There’s only one problem, a lot of this talent left for the NFL draft this year.

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DE Jonathan Allen will be hard to replace, after 69 tackles and 10.5 sacks in his senior season. Photo via USA Today Sports Images

They’re losing a couple of their best defensive players: Washington Redskins defensive end Jonathon Allen, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Tim Williams, Redskins linebacker Ryan Anderson, Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey, Chicago Bears safety Eddie Jackson and New York Giants defensive tackle Dalvin Johnson.

Despite the losses, it looks like the Tide will reload on defense. Outside linebackers Christian Miller, Anfernee Jennings, and Terrell Hall return to the team and will look to replace the defensive talent from last year. 

Da’Shawn Hand, a backup senior defensive end, looks to take over Allen’s spot. He played a supporting role for most of his career to date, but looked productive during his playing time. 

Alabama’s weakness: pass defense

It’s hard to find weaknesses with the Alabama team, but Alabama has shown the inability to defend the pass during stretches.

The Tide gave up over 400 yards against both Ole Miss and Arkansas, both teams that shouldn’t have been much of a threat.

Those were the only two games where an opponent got more than 14 points on the board in the regular season, but the slip-ups are telling. Saban knows he has to close the gap quickly if he hopes to get a season-opening win over Florida State. 

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Alabama’s toughest game might be the season opener against FSU, especially after Francois’s performance against Michigan in the Orange Bowl. Photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports

Can Alabama overcome their tough schedule?

Alabama always has a tough schedule, but this year should prove to be especially challenging. Their season opener is against a very strong FSU team, and momentum is everything for the Tide. FSU is projected to be one of the best teams in the country and anything can happen on opening day.

An opening day slip-up would force Alabama to win out if they want to make it to the playoffs.

Even after the first game, Bama goes up against Tennessee, always tough rival LSU, Auburn, and whoever they play in the SEC title game (most likely either Florida or Georgia).

Why Alabama will win the college football title game

Betting that Alabama will be in the title game is always a safe move. There’s plenty of teams that have the skill to challenge the Crimson Tide this year, but, like always, Alabama finds their way into the title game.

Alabama’s incoming offense is one of the best in the country, and as Hurts matures he’ll find that he has a ton of talent to challenge defenses.

Alabama will continue to have a dominant defense with their new recruits, but that won’t be the reason for them winning a championship this season.

Hurts’ improvement in his second season will make them that much better offensively and push them over the hump to winning another national title.

Arkansas star running back to retire from football after injury

Photo via AP Photo/Samantha Baker

Rawleigh Williams III, the star running back for the Arkansas Razorbacks, announced today that he will be retiring from football in a letter on Arkansas’s website.

Williams suffered his first neck injury before the 2015 season, causing him to miss the whole year. During the final play of the Arkansas spring game, he suffered another hit which proved to be his last.

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Williams led the SEC in the regular season last year with 1,360 yards and 5.6 yards per carry, with 12 touchdowns. 

“It’s tough to not be able to play football anymore because I’ve been playing since I was four years old. It wasn’t something I wanted to do or planned on having to do so early,” Williams said in his letter, entitled “The Next Chapter.”

Head coach Bret Bielema is more than supportive of Williams’s decision, and is excited for him to move on to his next chapter of life. “This next chapter in Rawleigh’s life will be filled with unlimited success in any career path or anyway of life he chooses. As a head coach I couldn’t be more excited to begin the next chapter with him and be there for him,” Bielema said Monday.

With the junior running back leaving, there are some big question marks for the future of the Razorbacks offense.

The most likely answer is sophomore Devwah Whaley, who ran for 602 yards and three touchdowns last season.

Whaley has big shoes to fill, but he has already shown talent on the field.

Williams will obviously miss his team and his coaches, but he remained optimistic in his open letter, finishing it by saying “I am very grateful. It is sad but I truly believe God has a plan for my life. I believe I’m going to be blessed more than I could ever imagine. Even though my plan isn’t going to happen, I know that his plan is better than my plan.”

Way-too-early SEC power rankings

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With recruiting almost over and Spring games at a close, it’s time to take a critical look at the SEC and decide who will be winners and losers in both divisions.

East Division

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RB Nick Chubb has proved an invaluable asset to the Bulldogs. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

1. Georgia

Even after an 8-5 season last year, the Bulldogs will dominate the East Division. Sophomore QB Jacob Eason had 2,430 yards in his freshman season, and threw for 16 touchdowns.

With Nick Chubb and Sony Michel returning for the 2017 season, the UGA ground game will be in full force. Chubb had 1,130 rushing yards last season, while Michel had 840.

The Dawgs also had an outstanding recruiting class, nabbing 21 4-star recruits and two 5-star recruits; rated second best by Campus Insiders.

2. Florida

The Gators showed promise during last year’s season, finishing 9-4. The offense remains strong with a slew of returners, and a new quarterback ready to take the reins, Felipe Franks. He threw for 2,766 yards and 35 touchdowns in his senior year of high school and is rated No. 5 at his position. Franks should do well with a strong receiving and running corps.

3. Tennessee

The Volunteers come into this season after losing two key defensive players, DE Derek Barnett and CB Cameron Sutton. They also lose QB Joshua Dobbs, although they have two promising quarterbacks vying for the spot.

Four-star recruit Jarrett Guarantano will battle Quinten Dormady, a junior backup who has completed 24 of his 39 total passes. The Vols add five-star OT Trey Smith, as well as four-star RB Ty Chandler to bolster the offense.

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Gamecocks QB Jake Bentley had an impressive 2016 season. Photo via Jeff Blake/USA TODAY Sports

4. South Carolina

USC returns 16 starters, including sophomore QB Jake Bentley, who impressed Gamecocks fans last season with 1,420 yards and a 65.8% completion rate.

South Carolina is picking up plenty of talent on both sides of the football, but the most important aspect of their recruiting is the offensive line.

The Gamecocks gave up 41 sacks last year, but they performed much better than in 2015, where their record was 3-9.

Muschamp was able to turn around the program to a bowl run in one year, so we’ll see how much he can turn them around after two seasons.

5. Kentucky

The most important thing for the Wildcats this season is improving their defense. They only racked up 21 sacks last season, and allowed 228.2 rushing yards a game.

However, Kentucky’s offense should be impressive, as they return both QB Stephen Johnson and RB Benny Snell, who ran for 1,091 yards last season.

The SEC is such a tough conference to compete in, and the Wildcats will struggle to hold their own against much better opponents.

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RB Ralph Webb will be part of the Commodores’ recipe for success. Photo via Jim Brown/USA TODAY Sports

6. Vanderbilt

The Commodores aren’t looking bad for the 2017 season. Despite losing linebacker Zach Cunningham to the NFL, Vandy returns RB Ralph Webb, who rushed for 1,283 yards last season, as well as most of the offense. If QB Kyle Shurmur performs with his considerable offensive depth, the Commodores will make it to a bowl game again.

7. Missouri

Mizzouri isn’t looking great for the 2017 season. After a 4-8 2016 season, they lost almost all of its defensive starters, only returning three players, and this after last season when they gave up 31.5 points per game.

The offense returns 10 players headed by QB Drew Lock, who had 3,339 passing yards with 23 touchdowns last season.

(West Division on next page below)

Vegas releases updated college football title odds

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The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, one of the premier outlets for sports betting odds, released their newest board for the college football title today. Earlier today, ESPN’s David Payne Purdum tweeted out the following odds:

ESPN’s Brett McMurphy also tweeted this out:

Only two Big 10 teams were listed, leaving Penn State out. A total of four SEC teams made the cut. Alabama is dominant, while Clemson, interestingly, only has 15/1 odds.