The last time Alabama went two consecutive seasons without winning th SEC West was 2010-2011. It’s a period of remarkable consistency from the Tide in the country’s best division, so to say this quickly and efficiently – Alabama is my early-season pick to win the SEC once more. They’ve got a QB battle between Mac Jones and Bryce Young, and regardless of who wins, they could have a Heisman contender and one of the best signal-callers in the conference. They’ve got possibly the best running back in the country in Najee Harris, and they’ve reloaded at wide receiver again, all while bringing along their usual fantastic defense. Let’s delve into this Alabama team.
Top Returners: Najee Harris, Shane Lee
Harris is a clear choice here, after a 20-touchdown season that saw him operate as the lead back in Nick Saban’s offense, piling up 1224 rushing yards on 5.9 yards per carry, rushing for 13 scores. He was an impact contributor in the passing game, collecting 27 passes for 304 yards and 7 more touchdowns, leading all non-QBs with his twenty TDs. He will be a massive part of this Alabama offense once more in 2020.
As for defense, I’m going with Shane Lee as the top returning player on this defense. In his true freshman season, Lee recorded 86 tackles, 6.5 for loss, to go with 4.5 sacks, an interception, and two forced fumbles. After posting a workout video, Lee seems to be committed to the process of dropping weight and adding some speed, one of the biggest criticisms he received despite his outstanding production. If his freshman year was Lee not in prime physical form…nobody in the SEC wants to see him fully unleashed.
Biggest Concerns: Replacing their elite secondary
The Alabama secondary was hit with some tough-to-swallow losses, with top talents Xavier McKinney, Trevon Diggs, and Jared Mayden all departing for the NFL. That trio had 11 of Alabama’s 18 interceptions in 2019, so replacing that production and lockdown ability in their secondary will be absolutely crucial. A pass rush can only do so much when receivers are open, so getting some players to step up and be impact formers at defensive back is a big talking point for the Crimson Tide.
X-Factors: Patrick Surtain II
One of the aforementioned players that will need to step up in 2020, Surtain is the only Alabama returner who had more than one interception, after notching a pair of picks in 2019. A former consensus five-star prospect, Surtain attained honorable mention All-American honors last year, but he will need to be the leader of the Crimson Tide secondary this season. To do that, Surtain must rise from an above-average contributor on a deep defense to an instant game changer for a defense that lost a lot of talent.
SEC Record Prediction: 7-1
I’ve hinted at this in my prior team previews of LSU and Texas A&M, but I see the Tide, Tigers, and Aggies locked in a 3-way battle for SEC supremacy. I think Alabama will fall at LSU at Death Valley, but they’ll notch the victory over the Aggies at home, opening the door for them to claim the regular season division title when Texas A&M beats LSU on the season’s final weekend. All in on the Tide in 2020.