Alabama Preview vs. Duke

Alabama Preview vs. Duke
TUSCALOOSA, AL - APRIL 13: Tua Tagovailoa #13 of the Alabama Crimson Tide in action during the team's A-Day Spring Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on April 13, 2019 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The revenge/rebound tour for the Alabama Crimson Tide is finally here with the start of their 2019 season. Throughout the offseason, the Tide have been more determined than angry after their 44-16 loss to the Clemson Tigers in the 2019 National Championship. Their 2019 season starts once again in a non-conference neutral site in the Chik-Fil-A Kickoff. The Duke Blue Devils will be Alabama’s first opponent and are currently (as of August 28th) 34.5-point underdogs. This largely due to the Crimson Tide expected to one of the most efficient teams on both offense and defense. Another reason for the huge favor for the Crimson Tide is the Blue Devils’ loss of quarterback Daniel Jones to the 2019 NFL Draft. That doesn’t mean Duke will not be a threat as head coach David Cutcliffe is a builder of well-established quarterbacks. Here is our Alabama Preview.

Alabama Preview vs. Duke

This week has been a critical point for head coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide as he is looking to get more focus into his team. Saban has been highly strict on his team activities and practices. Saban has suspended four key players for the Tide for at least the first half against Duke for missing team activities. Running back Najee Harris, backup running back Brian Roberson Jr., outside linebacker Terrell Lewis, and wide receiver DeVonta Smith are suspended for a significant amount of time against Duke. Saban suspending his impact players might now come at a bad time. Last Tuesday night, the Tide’s star defensive player and leader in middle linebacker Dylan Moses tore his ACL.

Tua And The Offense Need To Start Fast And Finish Strong

Last season, the Crimson Tide were ranked third in the nation in points per game (45) and sixth in total offense (522 yards per game). This was due to the explosive playmaking by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and his consistent offensive teammates. In the first eight games of the 2018 season, the Crimson Tide offense scored 28 points in the first half. The only other game when they scored 28 points in the first half was the college football semi-final playoff game against Oklahoma. The Blue Devils were ranked 82nd in total defense (allowed 419 total yards per game). They were, however, ranked 43rd in defensive efficiency (60.7). Duke’s defense returns nine starters from last year and are efficient in stopping offenses in the red zone. Clemson is the only team that matches the offensive production that Duke played last season. They lost 35-6.

Establish A Running Game Without Harris And Robinson

Junior running backs Harris and Robinson Jr. were looking to start their new main roles strong with Alabama. Instead, both players will be on the sidelines after missing team events as per their suspensions. Redshirt freshman Jerome Ford will likely get the start at the running back position. Freshman Keilan Robinson and sophomore Chadarius Townsend will likely provide impact at depth. The main impact in the rushing game comes from the offensive line where coaches believe in the projected lineup. Moving Alex Leatherwood from guard to tackle opened up a new starting role filled by true freshman Evan Neal. New starting center in Chris Owens will also be a huge contribution to the Tide’s running game in week one. Both Harris and Robinson might get playing in the second half to build some experience.

 

Contain Blue Devils Running Back Deon Jackson

Losing a key player like quarterback Daniel Jones is a huge hit for the Duke Blue Devils. Running back Deon Jackson is the most experienced offensive skill position player for the Blue Devils in 2019. Last season, he rushed for 847 yards and seven touchdowns on 161 carries. He was also a flex running back that contributed in the receiving game by accounting for 253 yards and two touchdowns on 26 receptions. Alabama’s big task against this Blue Devils’ offense to eliminate the potential impact of Jackson. This task will be much more difficult to do without the star playing ability of Dylan Moses. The Crimson Tide will two freshmen inside linebackers in Christian Harris and Shane Lee. Both freshmen will have an immediate early role in their collegiate careers taking over two starters, who tore their ACL.

Make New Starting Quarterback Quentin Harris Stay In The Pocket

The inside linebacker spots are more vulnerable with the loss of Moses for the year. This makes the impact from the star-studded line and defensive backs much more important. The Blue Devils are not returning their top four leading receivers from last season along with Daniel Jones. Alabama’s secondary has multiple players with experience and great capabilities to lock down opposing receivers. This will make things difficult for new Blue Devils starting quarterback Quentin Harris to throw efficiently. Last season, Alabama was fifth in the nation in sacks accounted for with 45. Keeping pressure on Harris will force him to make bad throws and potentially a turnover. Senior outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings and new starting defensive end LaBryan Ray could make an impact early for the Tide’s defense. The constant pass rush and tight coverages from the secondary will ease the transition of the two freshmen inside linebackers.

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