As summer winds down and autumn approaches, the Deep South’s favorite pastime other than eating fried chicken on the front porch is rearing its big, fat head.
The game of choice is college football, Southeastern Conference style. Football is a way of life in Starkville, Baton Rouge, Tuscaloosa, Oxford, Athens, Gainesville, Knoxville and Nashville.
So here we have it. The predominant question is, can anyone break Alabama’s hold on SEC football? Alabama has won seven of the last 10 SEC championships. The Crimson Tide has also run the table with 26 Southeastern Conference football titles over time and over the goal line, thanks mostly to current Alabama coach Nick Saban and former Crimson Tide taskmaster Paul “Bear” Bryant.
There are a handful of teams in the SEC that think they have a legitimate chance to dethrone Alabama this year. Georgia ranks at the top of the list of the SEC hopefuls. The hairy Dogs are banking their hopes on two senior running backs, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
Last fall, Chubb plowed his way for 988 yards and seven touchdowns. Michel averaged five yards per carry as he bolted for 753 yards on 137 carries.
Auburn firmly believes, just like Georgia, that it can leap past Alabama for the SEC crown this season. The Tigers lofty expectations are taking off with sophomore transfer Jarrett Stidham, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound quarterback with a gunslinger mentality.
Stidham passed for 12 touchdowns and 1,265 yards as a backup at Baylor two years ago. Stidham also attended McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas last year but did not play football.
He, however, is an Auburn Tiger now. And junior tailback Derrius Guice is an LSU Tiger. The Bayou Bengals do believe they could knock off Alabama this season and win the SEC title. Guice will lead LSU into this season after rambling for 1,249 yards and 14 touchdowns last year.
Guice is a Heisman Trophy candidate. As for Florida, it might not have one of those. But the Gators do believe they are ready to take down the Crimson Tide dynasty in the SEC this fall.
Florida is anchored by a championship- caliber defense with junior nose tackle Khairi Clark (6foot-2, 319 pounds), junior end CeCe Jefferson (6-foot-1, 261 pounds), sophomore linebacker David Reese (6-foot, 244 pounds) and senior cornerback Duke Dawson (5-foot-10, 208 pounds). The Gators also have some hand-to-hand combat ability with senior safety Marcell Harris, a 6foot-1, 211-pounder.
Even so, the Gators, Georgia, LSU and Auburn are still faced with the red menace other there in Tuscaloosa. Alabama isn’t running from the challenge. The Crimson Tide lost a lot of players from last year’s national runner-up team.
Alabama also has some suffocating talent returning to sold out Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821 capacity) this year. The Crimson Tide will take on all comers and goers, from the Dogs, to the Gators, to the Tigers.
The Crimson Tide anticipates winning their school’s 27th SEC football championship this autumn. Alabama isn’t unbeatable, but the Tide does have the league’s best quarterback with sophomore Jalen Hurts. He rushed for 954 yards and passed for 2,780 yards last season.
Hurts accounted for 36 touchdowns last year (running and passing). Alabama returns more than just a dual threat thoroughbred in 2017. The Tide also has some key pieces with junior wide receiver Calvin Ridley, senior split end Robert Foster and junior running back Damien Harris.
Ridley caught 72 passes one year ago. Harris rushed for 1,040 yards in the 2016 season. Foster saw limited action, but he is healthy now and is ready to give Alabama a second option at wide receiver. Foster is a slippery pass catcher with multiple gears. The Crimson Tide also returns senior center Bradley Bozeman, a 6-foot-5, 319-pound extra effort blocker from Roanoke, Ala.
The Tide also has an experienced and athletic defense. Ready to continue the domination is Alabama defensive end Josh Frazier (6-foot-4, 315 pounds), senior lineman Da’Shawn Hand (6-foot-4, 280 pounds) and senior middle linebacker Rashaan Evans (6-foot-3, 230 pounds).
Alabama also has a “tidy” secondary with no weak links. It could very well be hammer time with senior defensive backs Tony Brown and Anthony Averett, junior free safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Ronnie Harrison and sophomore cornerback Trevon Diggs. The Crimson Tide’s Diggs is a 6-foot-2, 195-pound two-handed tackler.
Other than that, Alabama doesn’t have much other than the best coach in the country with Nick Saban, and his five national titles and 10 Western Division championships. The 65year-old Saban has compiled a college coaching record of 205-61-1 in 21 seasons at Alabama, LSU, Michigan State and Toledo.
Saban lets nothing slip through the cracks, including talent. The coach takes great players and makes them work as though they were non-scholarship players. Saban pushes his players, and he tests them every day on the practice field. The coach lets nothing slide.
The former Kent State letterman expects perfection and another SEC title.