Alabama Football: Ranking 2020 opponents by toughness

Nick Saban, Alabama football (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Nick Saban, Alabama football (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /
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Alabama football missed the four-team playoff for the first time in 2019. Can the Tide navigate a tough SEC slate and return to the CFP in 2020?

In the moment, 2019 may have felt like a passing of the torch in the SEC West. LSU came to Tuscaloosa and put up 46 on the Tide, including a 33-point first half. Then on Thanksgiving, young Bo Nix won his Iron Bowl debut for the Auburn Tigers.

However, with an offseason to reflect and evaluate, it’s now clear that 2019 could have very simply been a bump in the road. Most of that title-winning LSU team is gone to the NFL (and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda left to take the Baylor head coaching job). Auburn’s bowl loss to Minnesota indicated that maybe the Tigers hadn’t progressed as much as previously thought.

And for Alabama, things appear set for a return to a College Football Playoff berth.

Whether the quarterback is Mac Jones or Bryce Young, each has tremendous upside of their own. Jones is the reliable, experienced passer, and Young is the dynamic dual-threat prospect. Whoever the starter is, they’ll be throwing to an electric set of wideouts that includes Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith.

At tailback, there’s a Heisman candidate in Najee Harris, and he’ll run behind an offensive line that returns four starters, including a healthy Alex Leatherwood.

The defense has a surplus of experienced linebackers and a group of young, talented linemen. The back end is the concern, where aside from Patrick Surtain II, there is a distinct lack of experience.

Entering 2020, the Tide should once again be the favorites in the division and conference. To reach a potential date with Clemson, or Ohio State, in the CFP, they’ll have to navigate an interesting 2020 slate. Here’s how the teams on their road stack up.