The Alabama Crimson Tide have won three straight SEC championships, and five of the last eight, which raises the question: Can anyone stop them in 2017?
In short, I believe the answer to be yes. But, will anyone challenge them? That seems to be the more appropriate question. Bama hasn’t lost the conference since 2013 and this year they are the favorites once again. So, which SEC West teams, if any, can knock off the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2017?
The Tigers are an intriguing team entering the fall due to Coach O and running back Derrius Guice. Orgeron took over for Les Miles in 2016 going 5-2 as the interim coach before being named Head Coach. The junior running back was voted preseason 1st-team all SEC this year and with good reason. Even with Leonard Fournette on last season’s roster, Guice managed to lead the conference in rushing yards with 1,387 and was second in the SEC with 15 touchdowns. But is he enough?
History tells us no. The last two years LSU has had Leonard Fournette and all he did was run for a combined 66 yards on 36 carries. In other words, nothing. You can’t expect to run the ball between the tackles and beat Alabama. So can new offensive coordinator Matt Canada help LSU?
Maybe. Canada has been at mid-tier programs with the exception of Wisconsin in 2012 where he had Montee Ball and Melvin Gordon. He has also had stints at NC State and most recently, Pitt. Last season Pitt had a top-10 scoring offense, and a 43-42 victory over eventual national champs Clemson.
So Canada has the ability to provide a more exciting offense than we’re accustomed to seeing from LSU, especially with the talent in Baton Rouge. The one thing holding LSU back, which has for some time now, is the quarterback position.
In the last few years, the quarterbacks that have beaten Alabama have all been dual-threat, athletic quarterbacks (Nick Marshall, Deshaun Watson, Chad Kelly). If Danny Etling is the guy, he’s not quite any of the three just mentioned.
LSU travels to Tuscaloosa on Nov. 4.
These Tigers are also intriguing heading into the 2017 campaign. It seems as though Auburn has had high expectations recently, only to come up short (2014 and 2015). This offseason Auburn has received a fair amount of hype. Last year, the Tigers finished 8-5 but managed to have a 6-game winning streak after starting 1-2. Yes, the Tigers finished poorly, but the flashes of brilliance has led many to wonder what they can accomplish in 2017.
Of course, the majority of the hype comes with the arrival of Jarrett Stidham. However, the rest of the team shouldn’t be overlooked. The defense returns key players Marlon Davidson on the line, Tray Matthews in the secondary, and both Tre Williams and Deshaun Davis at linebacker. And accompanying Stidham on the offensive side of the ball are Kerryon Johnson and Kam Pettway in the backfield, along with Kyle Davis and Nate Craig-Myers at receiver.
The achilles heel for Auburn has been similar to that of LSU in that they haven’t been able to find a reliable quarterback. Stidham has yet to prove himself as a quarterback that can win championships, but if he’s anywhere near what everyone believes him to be, Auburn will have a good year.
Will it be enough to beat Alabama? That remains to be seen. Although playing at home does help.
The Iron Bowl will in Auburn, Ala. on Nov. 25.
LSU and Auburn I believe have the best shot at knocking off Alabama of anyone in the SEC West this year. Although a possible trap game for Alabama (if Nick Saban ever allows such a thing) is Nov. 11 in Starkville.
More from Southbound and Down
A week after playing LSU, the Tide have to travel and play Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have Nick Fitzgerald under center, and he has the skill set to frustrate Alabama, although the talent around him will hinder their chances at defeating the Crimson Tide.
Ole Miss, Texas A&M, and Arkansas will also have tall tasks to defeat Alabama this year. These three teams either have to play in Tuscaloosa or are rolling out a new quarterback.
Nick Saban is an incredibly difficult man to beat. That’s why he has won five national titles at Alabama and LSU. It’s not impossible, but the stars have to align.
Really, the team that might have the best chance to beat the Alabama Crimson Tide in the regular season isn’t even in the SEC West, and that’s Florida State.
Florida State and Alabama kick off the 2017 season on September 2nd in Atlanta.