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2021 Alabama Crimson Tide Schedule Breakdown and Predictions

Coming off a national championship-winning campaign, the Alabama Crimson Tide aim to end their 2021 schedule with a zero in the loss column. The current status of the pandemic seems hopeful, but there are no guarantees at this point. Whether game postponements or cancellations occur, one thing is for certain; Nick Saben and Co. are striving to go back-to-back with the target firmly on their backs. Which teams will Alabama face, who are some Crimson Tide 2022 NFL Draft prospects to watch, and what are our predictions leading up to the 2021 season?

Alabama Crimson Tide schedule breakdown and predictions

All days are Saturday unless otherwise noted. All times listed below are Eastern Time.

Week 1 (Sept. 4): vs. Miami (FL) | 3:30 PM | ABC | Prediction: Alabama, 41-21

The Crimson Tide begin their season against the Hurricanes in Mercedes Benz Stadium, home to the Atlanta Falcons. The matchup depends on the health of QB D’Eriq King, who head coach Manny Diaz says is crushing every rehab benchmark following a torn ACL in Miami’s bowl game. If King is healthy and mobile, the Canes will score some points. If not, expect a blowout.

Week 2 (Sept. 11): vs. Mercer | 4 PM | SECN | Prediction: Alabama, 55-3

FCS opponent Mercer travels to Bryant-Denny Stadium, where they were dominated 56-0 in their 2017 battle with Alabama. I’m giving the Bears a field goal, but even that may be too generous. We will likely see some of Alabam’s depth by the second half, so at least we will get a glimpse of the future.

Week 3 (Sept. 18): at Florida | 3:30 PM | CBS | Prediction: Alabama, 38-17

This is one of the most intriguing contests on Alabama’s 2021 schedule. What will the Florida Gators look like? Their offense took huge hits with generational tight end Kyle Pitts, QB Kyle Trask, and a pair of receivers in Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes going pro.

Emory Jones has proved to be lethal with his legs, but what about his arm? Kaiir Elam is a top cornerback in the 2022 NFL Draft class, but can the defense slow down the Alabama offense? As much as I like Dan Mullen as a head coach, there are too many questions that need answers.

Week 4 (Sept. 25): vs. Southern Miss | TBD | TBD | Prediction: Alabama, 56-10

Even if Frank Gore Jr. embodies the NFL abilities of his never-aging father, Southern Miss stands no chance. They simply do not have the bodies to put up much of a fight, plus the Golden Eagles seemed to give up on the program last year.

Week 5 (Oct. 2): vs. Ole Miss | TBD | TBD | Prediction: Alabama, 42-31

Ole Miss may be the most exciting game on Alabama’s schedule. The Rebels put up 48 on Saban’s staunch defense but allowed 63 points. Will we see another shootout in Tuscaloosa? Elijah Moore is gone, but the bulk of Lane Kiffin’s high-octane offense returns, including star QB Matt Corral. Still, outside of Otis Reese, Ole Miss has little to write home about on the defensive side of the ball.

Week 6 (Oct. 9): at Texas A&M | TBD | TBD | Prediction: Alabama, 31-27

After a likely shootout against Ole Miss, Alabama has to travel to Texas A&M. This will be the Crimson Tide’s biggest challenge in the regular season. Yes, four-year starter Kellen Mond is out the door, but one of Haynes King or Zach Calzada should be at least functional in Jimbo Fisher’s scheme. Furthermore, RB Isaiah Spiller, TE Jalen Wydermyer, RB/WR Ainias Smith, and OL Kenyon Green will cause issues for Alabama’s defense.

Although I believe it will be closer than anticipated, the Crimson Tide leave College Station with another W on the record. Their offense is just too much for the Aggies’ defense, even with DeMarvin Leal wreaking havoc on the d-line.

Week 7 (Oct. 16): at Mississippi State | TBD | TBD | Prediction: Alabama, 42-13

We should expect some progression in Mike Leach’s second year, but not enough to completely turn around the dumpster fire that was Mississippi State in 2020. While Leach’s pass-happy spread system will cause some headaches for Saban, it will also likely create plenty of opportunities for turnovers.

Week 8 (Oct. 23): vs. Tennessee | TBD | TBD | Prediction: Alabama, 52-14

Tennessee has a new head coach and a new QB. The Volunteers may have some semblance of cohesiveness by this point in the season, but Alabama will inevitably derail them. Whether Hendon Hooker, Joe Milton, Harrison Bailey, or Brian Maurer wins the QB battle, they will regret doing so, facing a vaunted defense with future NFL playmakers at every level.

Week 9: Bye

At 8-0, can Alabama continue to dominate their schedule following a Week 9 bye?

Week 10 (Nov. 6): vs. LSU | TBD | TBD | Prediction: Alabama, 35-24

LSU is a formidable opponent, so Saban and his coaches will appreciate having an extra week to prepare before the contest. QB Myles Brennan (or Max Johnson) and WR Kayshon Boutte are a lethal tandem, and Derek Stingley and Eli Ricks are the best CB duo in college football.

While the corners may generate a relatively poor performance from QB Bryce Young, the defensive line won’t be able to handle Alabama’s rushing attack. Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron could be on the hot seat just two years after a historic national championship run.

Week 11 (Nov. 13): vs. New Mexico State | TBD | TBD | Prediction: Alabama, 62-3

I am going to save a little on the word count here. There is a reason New Mexico State landed as the 129th-ranked program on our college football power rankings. *Insert firework emojis*

Week 12 (Nov. 20): vs. Arkansas | TBD | TBD | Prediction: Alabama, 42-13

Arkansas receiver Treylon Burks will get his, but he can’t do it all. Alabama demolished the Razorbacks to the tune of 52-3 last season. I will give Arkansas a little more credit this year, but not enough to avoid another thrashing.

Week 13 (Nov. 27): at Auburn | TBD | TBD | Prediction: Alabama, 35-16

Ending the season with a victory over rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl is the exact momentum booster the Crimson Tide would love heading into the playoffs. Bo Nix is not the answer, and despite my appreciation for head coach Bryan Harsin, this game will remind him he is not in the Mountain West anymore.

Projected 2021 record: 12-0

It won’t be an easy road for the Crimson Tide, but history proves it’s unwise to bet against Saban and Alabama. Their schedule isn’t particularly difficult, as they only play three teams that finished in the final AP Top 25 last season. Even then, two are transitioning for star signal-callers — Florida and Texas A&M — and Miami’s D’Eriq King is recovering from a torn ACL suffered late in the season.

Outside of players (which we will get to shortly), the Crimson Tide lose offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian but bring in Bill O’Brien. As the head coach at Penn State from 2012-2013, O’Brien served as his own offensive coordinator and play-caller. He led the Nittany Lions to a mediocre 15-9 record, but the offense averaged 28.9 points per game. Additionally, he made former walk-on Matt McGloin and Christian Hackenberg look like serviceable quarterbacks.

Yes, O’Brien struggled in the NFL — that can’t be understated. Still, he is a solid offensive coordinator and an underrated offensive mind. Although I would not be surprised if Bama dropped a game to one of Florida, Ole Miss, or Texas A&M, I’m more confident in them running the table in 2021.

Alabama roster and prospects to watch

The Crimson Tide perenially possess a talented roster and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Turnover occurs every season, but filling the shoes left by first-rounders Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith, Patrick Surtain, Mac Jones, Alex Leatherwood, and Najee Harris is no easy task.

Offense

Alabama will be starting a new QB in their season opener for the third-straight year. This time, true sophomore Bryce Young will be at the helm. He was the No. 1 QB and No. 2 overall athlete in the 2020 recruiting class. Young’s physical tools are impressive, but it will be interesting to see how O’Brien builds the offense around him.

Following the first Heisman-winning receiver since 1991 is daunting, but John Metchie flashed his potential last season. As a true sophomore, he racked up 55 catches for 916 yards and 6 touchdowns, all of which were second on the team behind Smith. Slade Bolden, Xavier Williams, and Javon Baker round out the receiving corps, with Bolden being the most experienced of the trio.

Brian Robinson Jr. is a power-back but may not even be the best RB on the roster. Regardless, he will see the bulk of the carries to start the season as a serviceable fifth-year senior. Trey Sanders was billed as the next great Alabama running back in the 2019 recruiting class, but injuries have plagued his career thus far. Additionally, keep your eyes on Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams.

Jahleel Billingsley only caught 18 passes in 2020, but he took them for 287 yards and 3 touchdowns. He flashed immense receiving ability at tight end and should become one of Young’s favorite targets early on.

Tackle Evan Neal and guard Emil Ekiyor Jr. highlight the offensive line and are the only two returning starters. Up front is where continuity matters, so expect some growing pains. Still, some combination of Chris Owens, Tommy Brown, Javion Cohen, and JC Latham should keep Young upright — for the most part.

2022 NFL Draft prospects to watch: WR John Metchie, RB Brian Robinson, TE Jahleel Billingsley, OT Evan Neal, OG Emil Ekiyor Jr. 

Defense

Defensively, there is far less change occurring. Alabama returns eight of its 11 starters from 2020. Due to the unit largely staying together and their immense ability on the field, the Crimson Tide defense should be one of the most suffocating in the nation next season.

Bama’s most commonly used 4-2-5 alignment causes nightmares for the opposition. DJ Dale and Phidarian Mathis are monsters up the middle, and Justin Eboigbe is a pass-rush threat on the edge. The wild card is LaBryan Ray, who has been on the sideline the past two seasons due to injury. If he can stay healthy in 2021, Ray could propel this group up rankings.

Outside linebacker Will Anderson dominated in the SEC last season. It’s scary to think that was just his true freshman campaign. What will he do in his second year of collegiate action? Christian Harris and Henry To’o To’o will man the second level of the defense and make it extremely difficult for offenses to move the chains.

The secondary is loaded in Tuscaloosa. Cornerback Josh Jobe and nickel back Malachi Moore are searching for a new running mate with Surtain gone. The favorite to take his place is Jalyn Armour-Davis, but Ronald Williams Jr., JUCO transfer Khyree Jackson, and five-star freshman Ga’Quincy “Koolaid” McKinstry — what a name — could push him for the role.

The last line of Alabama’s defense is in the safe hands of Jordan Battle and redshirt senior Daniel Wright.

2022 NFL Draft prospects to watch: DT DJ Dale, DT Phidarian Mathis, DE LaBryan Ray, DE Justin Eboigbe, LB Christian Harris, LB Henry To’o To’o, CB Josh Jobe, S Jordan Battle

Special Teams

Will Reichard is the best kicker returning to college football and should have won the Lou Groza Award in 2020. He made ALL of his 84 extra points and 14 field goals attempted. He will likely need to kick more field goals in 2021, but that won’t be an issue.

Punter, although not the most significant position for the Crimson Tide, is not settled quite yet. There is a competition between Sam Johnson — who punted 10 times for Alabama as a reserve punter last year — and Troy transfer Jack Martin.

2022 NFL Draft prospects to watch: K Will Reichard

Want 2022 NFL Draft prospect news? Want to do your own mock draft?

Dive into PFN’s Free NFL Mock Draft Simulator and test your own drafting acumen. Continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter (@PFN365) to stay in the loop on all things college football and the NFL Draft landscape.

James Fragoza is a Writer and News Editor at Pro Football Network. You can read his other work here and follow him on Twitter @JamesFragoza.

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