MFB

Alabama running back Najee Harris is expected to be the feature back in what should be a high-powered offense this season. [KENT GIDLEY/ALABAMA ATHLETICS]

Coach’s corner

Head coach: Nick Saban

Age: 67

Record at school: 146-21

Breaking it down

Location: Tuscaloosa

Stadium: Bryant-Denny Stadium

All-Time record: 905-328-43

Conference affiliation: SEC

Last conference title game appearance: 2018

Returning starters: 17 (7 offense, 7 defense, 3 special teams)

Four-down territory

1. Motivation: It never should be difficult to motivate college players at Alabama, but just in case the Crimson Tide needs a little added inspiration, all Nick Saban has to do is mention 44-16. That was the humbling final score from last season’s national championship game, a game some people thought might be a passing of the torch to Clemson as the nation’s most dominant program. We’ll see how that plays out.

2. Tua and the Fab Four: No team in college football has a better quarterback-receiver combination than Alabama, which features signal-caller Tua Tagovailoa and receivers Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith. The four receivers combined for 201 catches for 3,597 yards and 38 touchdowns a year ago.

3. Injuries could be an issue: Injuries struck the Crimson Tide early, with RB Trey Sanders and LB Joshua McMillon lost in preseason camp. Both are expected to miss significant time, if not all of the season. McMillon was in line to start and Sanders was expected to be the No. 3 running back. Are the injuries a precursor of things to come this season, or because Alabama has so much depth is it just a temporary speed bump?

4. New coordinators: Steve Sarkisian returns as offensive coordinator and Pete Golding takes over as defensive coordinator. This is Sarkisian’s second stint with the Tide and given the wealth of talent he has to work with, Alabama shouldn’t miss a beat after scoring 684 points last season. There are a few holes to fill defensively, especially at defensive tackle with the departure of Quinnen Williams, but Dylan Moses is a star at linebacker and the rest of the defense is solid. Golding will find a way to utilize the plethora of talent at his disposal to field another excellent defense.

Extra Point

Tua Tagovailoa is the starting quarterback, but his younger brother, Taulia, is battling for the backup job. Tua said it is fun to have his younger brother on the team.

“We kind of came to this thing where, on the field, it’s business,” Tua said. “He has to work, and I have to work, and everyone is working for a job. Off the field, that is my brother and that is someone I have to take care of and love on him, and if he needs anything I am going to be there for him.”

Upset special

Cheer: Nov. 14 at South Carolina: Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp says this is the best team he has had since he was named head coach at the school. It’s also the first true road game for the Tide. A win here sets Alabama up to be undefeated going into a road game at Texas A&M on Oct. 12. A loss would hamper, but not destroy, Alabama’s national title aspirations.

Jeer: Nov. 23 vs. Western Carolina: The usual warm-up game prior to the Iron Bowl against a team that will offer little resistance and take home a lofty paycheck.

Crystal ball

13-2. Can Alabama run the table again and make it back to the national championship game? A lot has to go right for that to happen. Tua Tagovailoa must stay healthy and shake off the tough games he had against Georgia and Clemson at the end of last season. Nick Saban’s team also has to take care of business in a couple of tough road games at Texas A&M and Auburn. Look for a regular-season loss somewhere and another trip to the CFP where Clemson wins again.

Did you know?

Alabama has played in 12 of the 27 SEC championship games since its inception in 1992. The Tide has an 8-4 record in those games, including winning the last five it has played in. Florida also has played in 12 SEC championship games, and holds a 7-5 record in those games.

Quotebook

“I think the key to us, the key to our success, is can we internally re-establish the standard of what we need to do to be the best team we can be. That’s got to be something that’s done on a consistent basis, and it has to be able to sustain the season, That’s a challenge for all of us.”

Nick Saban

2018 results

14-1 overall, 8-0 SEC

Alabama 51, Louisville 14

Alabama 57, Arkansas State 7

Alabama 62, Ole Miss 7

Alabama 45, Texas A&M 23

Alabama 56, Louisiana Lafayette 14

Alabama 65, Arkansas 31

Alabama 39, Missouri 10

Alabama 58, Tennessee 21

Alabama 29, LSU 0

Alabama 24, Mississippi State 0

Alabama 50, Citadel 17

Alabama 52, Auburn 21

Alabama 35, Georgia 28

Alabama 45, Oklahoma 34

Clemson 44, Alabama 16

2019 schedule

Aug. 31 vs. Duke (Atlanta)

Sept. 7 New Mexico State

Sept. 14 at South Carolina

Sept. 21 Southern Miss

Sept. 28 Ole Miss

Oct. 12 at Texas A&M

Oct. 19 Tennessee

Oct. 26 Arkansas

Nov. 9 LSU

Nov. 16 at Mississippi State

Nov. 23 Western Carolina

Nov. 30 at Auburn

— Gregg Dewalt

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