Analysts have made bold predictions and the Coaches’ Poll has released its preseason top 25 rankings.
Alabama enters this season ranked No.2 in the nation. The placement adds a chip on the Tide’s shoulder, but Alabama looks to reclaim its spot atop college football. The Crimson Tide’s first triumphant matchup was against West Virginia in Atlanta on Aug. 30. 33-23.
The Mountaineers were first on Alabama’s plate, but other challenging programs await the Tide in 2014. As Alabama begins its quest for a 16th national title, here is a list of the five toughest opponents it will face this season:

5. Mississippi Rebels (Ole Miss)
Coach: Hugh Freeze
2013 record: 8-5, 3-5 (SEC)
Returning players: (Offense) Bo Wallace, I’Tavius Mathers, Jaylen Walton, Mark Dodson, Laquon Treadwell and Evan Engram. (Defense) Cody Prewitt, C.J. Hampton, Denzel Nkemdiche and Serderius Bryant.
Location: Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium, Oxford, Miss.
Summary: Mississippi entered 2013 under a lot of hype. The Rebels started last season with three straight wins. Before the Alabama game, many of the players took to social media for trash talking. As a result, the Tide’s defense held Mississippi scoreless. Ole Miss looks to redeem itself from the 25-0 beat-down Alabama handed them.
The Crimson Tide will head to Oxford this season. The Rebels will have a spirited crowd behind them, in hopes to provide a hostile environment for the Tide. Bo Wallace completed 54.8 percent (17/31) of his passes for 159 yards last season against Alabama. It will be up to him to compose the Rebels and make smart decisions with the ball in 2014.
4. Florida Gators
Coach: Will Muschamp
2013 record: 4-8, 3-5 (SEC)
Returning players: (Offense) Jeff Driskell, Matt Jones, Mack Brown, Kelvin Taylor, Quinton Dunbar and Demarucs Robinson. (Defense) Dante Fowler and Vernon Hargreaves III.
Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Summary: Florida lacked rhythm on offense in 2013. Jeff Driskel broke his fibula against Tennessee. The Gators went through many quarterbacks, but had little success. Florida’s defense held its own to start the season, but struggled down the stretch. The Gators finished 15th nationally, surrendering 21.1 points per game.
2011 was the last time Florida faced Alabama. The venue was Bryant-Denny Stadium and Alabama was the victor, 38-10. With a healthy Driskel and the hiring of Kurt Roper (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach), Florida looks to be much improved in 2014. Dante Fowler and Vernon Hargreaves are the leaders on defense. Fowler had 50 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 2013. Hargreaves totaled three interceptions and 11 pass breakups last season.

3. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Coach: Dan Mullen
2013 record: 7-6, 3-5 (SEC)
Returning players: (Offense) Dak Prescott, Ashton Shumpert, Josh Robinson, Jameon Lewis, Malcolm Johnson, De’Runnya Wilson. (Defense) Chris Jones, Benardrick McKinney, Jamerson Love and Taveze Calhoun.
Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Summary: It appeared like Mississippi State would finish 2013 at 4-8. The Bulldogs pulled out close victories over Kentucky, Arkansas and Ole Miss to finish at 7-6 last season. After its 44-7 victory against Rice in the Liberty Bowl, Mississippi State has Southeastern Conference dark horse written on them.
The Bulldogs were one of few teams that gave Alabama a fight in 2013, despite losing 20-7. Mississippi State returns 85 percent of its offense in 2014, headlined by quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott accounted for 23 touchdowns and 2,769 yards last season. Jameon Lewis and De’Runnya Wilson are game-changing receivers.
The Bulldogs return and experienced defense led by Benardrick McKinney. He recorded 70 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 2013. Defensive lineman Chris Jones totaled 32 tackles and three sacks last season. Jamerson Love and Taveze Calhoun led the secondary as they combined for six interceptions in 2013.

2. Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers
Coach: Les Miles
2013 record: 10-5, 5-3 (SEC)
Returning players: (Offense) Terrence Magee, Kenny Hilliard, Travis Dickson and Colby Delahoussaye. (Defense) Jalen Mills, Tre’ Sullivan, D.J. Wetler, Ronald Martin and Tre’Davious White.
Location: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, La.
Summary: Like Alabama, LSU has to find a new quarterback. With Zach Mettengberger in the National Football League, the battle is between Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris. Jennings got some action in 2013. He passed for 181 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He will get the nod to start this season, but Harris will be breathing down his neck.
LSU was embarrassed in the second half against Alabama last season. The Tigers’ offensive line failed to protect Mettenberger as he was sacked four times in the contest. The Tide’s defense held LSU to three points in the second half and won the game 38-17.
The Tigers were heart broken in Alabama’s last visit to Tiger Stadium. A 28-yard hookup from AJ McCarron to T.J. Yeldon via screen pass doomed LSU 21-17 in 2012. The Tigers have experience players returning, but also a plethora of talented freshmen coming in. Tiger Stadium has had some renovations made to it. The atmosphere will be louder than even before in 2014, especially when Alabama comes to town.

1. Auburn Tigers
Coach: Guz Malzahn
2013 record: 12-2, 7-1 (SEC)
Returning players: (Offense) Nick Marshall, Cameron Artis-Payne, Corey Grant, Ricardo Louis, Sammie Coates, Quan Bray, C.J. Uzomah, Reese Dismukes and D’haquille Williams. (Defense) Gabe Wright, Montravius Adams, Cassanova McKinzy, Jermaine Whitehead, Robenson Therezie and Jonathon Mincy.
Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Summary: This game needs no explanation. Revenge is the lone reason. Auburn shocked the world in 2013. After winning three games in 2012, the Tigers notched 12 wins last season. Auburn led the nation in rushing, averaging 328.3 yards per game.
Auburn had a lot of balls bounce it way, but none bigger than Chris Davis’s 109-yard missed kick return for a touchdown against Alabama. The play won Davis an ESPY award and placed Auburn in the SEC title game.
Despite losing Tre Mason and Greg Robinson, the Tigers return a potent offense in 2014. Quarterback Nick Marshall recorded 26 touchdowns and 2,044 yards. Both Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant rushed for over 600 yards and combined for 12 touchdowns in 2013. Sammie Coates led the receiver core with 1,016 yards and nine touchdowns.
Auburn was shamed in its last visit to Bryant-Denny Stadium. In 2012, Gene Chizik was head coach and the Tigers were shut out 49-0. Alabama will look to repeat that stat, while Auburn looks to defeat the Tide on the road.

Honorable Mentions:
Texas A&M Aggies
Coach: Kevin Sumlin
2013 record: 9-4, 4-4 (SEC)
Returning players: (Offense) Kenny Hill, Tra Carson, Trey Williams, Malcolme Kennedy and Ricky Seals-Jones. (Defense) De’Vante Harris, Deshazor Everett, Tyrell Taylor and Alonzo Williams.
Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Summary: Gone are the days of Johnny Manziel. Like Alabama and LSU, it’s time for Texas A&M to find its next explosive quarterback. Kenny Hill received playing time in 2013 and Sumlin has given him the nod this season. Talented freshman Kyle Allen will continue to battle Hill for the starting position. The Aggies loss Ben Malena, but return a dynamic duo in Tra Carson and Trey Williams. Carson rushed for 329 yards last season. Williams recorded 407 yards rushing and both combined for 13 touchdowns in 2013. Malcolme Kennedy will be the primary receiver in 2014. He had 658 yards receiving and seven touchdowns last season.
It was a shootout at Kyle Field between Texas A&M and Alabama in 2013. Both offenses went back and forth. The Crimson Tide emerged victorious, 49-42. The Aggies defeated Alabama 29-24 in its last visit to Bryant-Denny Stadium (2012). Alabama will look to prevent that from happening this season.

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.