The opening weekend of football season for the SEC is finally here. While Tennessee has already played their week-one game, most fans have had to wait until now to get excited to watch their favorite team take the field.
Expectations are high, dreams are still alive, and no one has a mark in their loss column yet. Needless to say, the start of the season is full of excitement for every team. This is true for perhaps no bigger fanbase than the Crimson Tide faithful.
Alabama is coming off of a historically great season in 2020 with a conference and national title. Nick Saban’s 2020 squad may even go down as the greatest ever, however there is a little room for debate, but not much.
With such a great year, there is sure to be a drop off because of great players leaving, assistants leaving, and new, less experienced players. Right?
Probably, but as we know that is hardly ever a guarantee in Tuscaloosa. They somehow seem to just reload year after year. So, what do the Tide fans need to be on the lookout for this game?
New Quarterback Bryce Young
Bryce Young is poised to be a future legend for the Crimson Tide. However, what do we really know about Young other than the fact that he was a prodigy in high school being a five-star prospect from California who was the number-one dual threat quarterback in his respective class?
The action we saw from Young in games last year was limited. The freshman did impress in that amount of time though, throwing 13-22 on the season for 156 yards and a touchdown. Most importantly, the rising star threw zero interceptions which is important for a freshman getting just a few plays each game to try to impress their coaches.
Watch for Young to come out slow against Miami. Most likely, his coaches have told him to not play too loose or too tight for the first few snaps as a starter.
Also, one would think that the offense will have him completing a few short passes to ease him into the game before he airs it out so he can shake the nerves off after quarter one.
Tide Defense under Golding
Alabama has long been known for their stout defense. Ever since Saban took over in 2007, Bama has been a defensive-heavy team. That is until the arrival of Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator for the Tide. Saban realized the game was changing, and understood that offense was all the rage. He also soon realized that can lead to a worn-out defense if you score every two minutes like Bama.
It is no secret that Pete Golding has been criticized by the Tide fanbase every once in a while for his defense not quite looking like a normal Bama defense. Is Golding taking the heat for the way the game is changing, or is he just not quite up to par with the near-impossible standard of defense that Saban started in Tuscaloosa?
Probably a little of both to be honest. Most teams that consist of a defense that stays on the field the whole time is the result of a bad defensive coordinator. Golding is a good defensive coordinator, but he is coaching in a system where the defense has to stay on the field consistently through no fault of their own.
This is because the offense really is that explosive that the D gets back on the field super quick because the offense storms down the field with great ease.
Watch for Golding’s defense to try to identify themselves in this game. The defensive line will be fine but watch for some young linebackers and a relatively inexperienced secondary for the Tide.
Although Miami has a high-powered offense, we don’t know how successful or daunting the task of defending them will be.
D’Eriq King for Miami is the most important factor for this Bama defense that has been known to struggle with mobile quarterbacks. How they handle an athletic quarterback that has an above average arm, as well as game experience, will be the thing to watch for on Saturday.
Who will step up at receiver?
Everyone is expecting that John Metchie, III is going to be the top receiver for Alabama, and maybe even the nation this season. Those people would be absolutely correct. Barring any unfortunate injuries, Metchie is going to have another great year, but even more improved.
The (now) junior racked up 916 yards and six touchdowns last season, as well as finishing just behind Devonta Smith on the receiving charts for the Tide last year. That’s right, the Heisman Trophy winner.
Slade Bolden is another big name to watch out for entering the season as he only saw meaningful minutes in five games last year mainly because of Jaylen Waddle’s injury. Yet, Bolden still managed to grab 270 yards of receptions on 24 catches.
The name that somehow isn’t talked about the most is Jahleel Billingsley. The 6’4”, 230 lb. tight end is a beast of a target. He has soft hands for a bigger guy, but is even more impressive after the catch. Billingsley was just shy of 300 receiving yards last season in an offense that split throws between two current NFL receivers, and more.
Fans need to watch for who steps up at receiver in the passing game for Young to throw darts at. Spoiler, they all will.
Alabama plays Miami at 2:30 p.m. Central in Atlanta at the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game. The Canes have had this one circled on the calendar for over a year, and Bama is ready to prove the doubters wrong about their being a drop-off from last year. This should be a high-scoring game that the Tide end up taking.
Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.