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Alabama may not qualify for the CFP, but the dynasty is far from over

Alabama Dynasty
Photo courtesy of Roll Bama Roll.

The refrain from the pundits constantly suggesting this is the end of the Alabama dynasty is one you’ve heard before. After Alabama won the 2012 National Championship, the Crimson Tide fell – by their lofty standards – on hard times. Alabama lost to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl the following year before falling to Ohio State in the inaugural college football playoff.

In unfamiliar fashion, this season’s Crimson Tide squad has played in five games decided by one touchdown or less. Alabama fans expect blowouts each contest, and an 8-2 record disappoints Tide fans’ eyes despite only losing to Tennessee and LSU in last-second fashion.

Yet since 2014, the Tide have been in the national championship game six of the previous seven times, with only a slight drop in 2019 (finishing that season outside of the playoffs). Alabama has won three more titles during that stretch, losing twice in the championship game to Clemson and once to rival Georgia.

Predicting Alabama’s decline is premature. Alabama is amidst a 15-year stretch where their combined record is 181-21, giving them a 90 percent winning percentage. Even a third or fourth loss this season does not necessitate panic for Tide faithful as the school will rebound from this season’s abnormal finish.

Why is Alabama Down This Season

The offense is certainly not to blame for Alabama’s struggles this season. Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young completed 63 percent of his passes for 2,443 yards and 22 TDs with only four interceptions. Although those numbers pale compared to last season’s other-worldly totals, Young is guiding the Tide to the sixth-best scoring offense in the country with more than 40 points per game.

Despite having the presumed top draft pick in the 2023 NFL draft, Alabama’s weakness is its defense. The Crimson Tide is ranked 123rd in the country with only nine takeaways this season, one of their worst performances for this unit in the past 15 years.

The secondary has been especially atrocious for Alabama this year, picking off only three passes through 10 games. After being among the nation’s best in passing yards allowed to start the year, the Crimson Tide has fallen back to earth by allowing more than 1,000 yards passing total in their last four games.

Tide defenders are reaching the backfield to cause disruption. Alabama has the ninth-best sack total in the country, reaching opponents’ QBs 32 times through 10 games. Linebacker Will Anderson Jr – who by most accounts will forgo his senior season to declare for the NFL draft – is 13th in the nation with 8.0 sacks.

Alabama’s other drop-off this season has been its team discipline. The Tide usually ranks in the country’s top half by committing very few penalties. This year, Alabama has been the third-most penalized team in the country, giving opponents 716 yards off 84 penalties.

Coaching Changes For Next Season

Looking at next season’s staff, Alabama head coach Nick Saban will almost certainly need to replace one or both coordinators during the off-season. After leading the offensive unit for two years, expect Tide offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien to seek a head coach vacancy next year. The former Penn State and Houston Texans coach have a 67-57 combined record in nine years at both levels. Rumors have swirled all season long that O’Brien could leave with nearby Auburn and Nebraska job openings available.

The change would be somewhat unexpected for Tide defensive coordinator Pete Golding. In his first year, Golding has received praise from Saban for how Alabama players responded to the 38-year-old coach. Golding was also nominated by the school for the Broyles Award, handed out to the top assistant coach in the country.

Expect Nick Saban to use the transfer portal to his advantage and secure several commitments from across the country to reload for next season. Replacing Young and Anderson will be a formidable task that a freshman may not have the skill set to accomplish. Look for Saban and his coaches to scour the country for seasoned players in 2023.

The Alabama Dynasty Next Phase

In the beginning, Coach Saban led Alabama to win national titles with quarterbacks such as Greg McElroy, A.J. McCarron, and Jake Coker. Those players were not NFL franchise quarterbacks at the next level. The formula to win was simple. Play great defense, run the football successfully, and the quarterback would only do enough to put the Crimson Tide over the top. Later, Saban would start recruiting and winning championships with signal callers that would be selected in the draft’s first round. QBs such as Mac Jones and Tua Tagovailoa come to mind. Current starter Bryce Young is projected to be one of the top QBs in next year’s draft.

This shows that Alabama is willing to change its philosophy of dominating from an offensive standpoint. Now that the Crimson Tide is up to speed on how to compete with today’s college football landscape, what does that mean for the rest of the SEC? With Saban at the helm, Alabama will continue to be a significant player in the college football world along with the SEC.

However, the path to another national title could be somewhat tricky. Saban now has to deal with head coaches such as Kirby Smart, Josh Heupel, Lane Kiffin, and recently Bryan Kelly, who took down the Tide in his first year as LSU’s HC. Bama will continue to compete for titles, but steamrolling through the SEC is coming to a halt. The Alabama dynasty is not dead, but the path to the ultimate prize will differ significantly from previous championship runs.

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Meet Derrick Branch, the founder and chief wordsmith at Strike 7 Sports. With a sharp focus on the NFL and the NBA, Derrick's expertise in sports is matched only by his passion for sharing it with others. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications from the prestigious University of Arizona Global. Let his insightful and engaging writing take you to the heart of the action.

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