Alabama vs. Miami Prediction: Bama's Quest To Repeat Starts In Atlanta

Last weekend was just the appetizer. This weekend in college football is the main course and Alex Kirshner kicks us off with his Alabama vs. Miami prediction for Saturday's Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game
Alex Kirshner
Mon, August 30, 5:19 AM EDT

Alabama vs. Miami Prediction: Bama's Quest To Repeat Starts This Week In Atlanta

Miami Hurricanes vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

Point Spread: Alabama -19

Total: 61.5

Game time: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

TV: ABC

Alabama vs. Miami Prediction

Alabama vs. Miami odds

Betting against Nick Saban’s Alabama is a risky proposition in the best of times. In 2020, oddsmakers essentially could not keep up with the Crimson Tide’s world-beating offense, and the Tide went 9-4 against the spread en route to a 13-0 season straight-up and a national title. Saban seems to ratchet up his program’s offensive capabilities every year now, so betting against the Tide is not for the squeamish. Any wager against them carries the possibility that they’ll be covering by the second quarter and leave you holding the bag. But I think the time is right, and the 19-point spread is big enough to look at betting against No. 1 Bama this weekend.

The Tide’s Week 1 opponent, No. 14 Miami, is probably going to be pretty good. One never knows with the Hurricanes, of course, as finding consistency has been an ongoing battle in Coral Gables for well more than a decade. But they have plenty of talent and at least have the upside of a great team. They were eighth nationally in the preseason SP+ rankings by ESPN’s Bill Connelly, and they are 12th in Connelly’s returning production metric. Because of the NCAA’s move to grant a free year of eligibility to every player who took the field in 2020, most teams have lots of players back this fall. But Miami stands out anyway with 91 percent of its statistical production back. On the other hand, Bama stands out in the other direction, at 124th in FBS with 56 percent back. Those numbers point to Bama being something closer to a 10-point favorite against Miami on a neutral field, like the one they’ll play on this weekend at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Everyone knows the Tide will be fine. They are still the clear national title favorites, and they will win this game because, well, Alabama always wins these games, since they always have more talent than whichever sad school decided to schedule them in Week 1. Saban has kept up his recruiting pace, and Bama’s recent classes of five-star recruits will ultimately give him what he needs to contend for another championship. But in this unique circumstance, for this one week, Miami somehow has more offensive certainty than Alabama. Canes quarterback D’Eriq King is definitely awesome, while five-star Bama QB Bryce Young, who backed up Mac Jones as a true freshman last year, is merely probably awesome. The Tide have just three returning starters on offense. The newbies will be fine, but no one is necessarily immune from needing a few weeks to get everything figured out. That is extra true at Bama this year, because the Tide have swapped in yet another new offensive coordinator, with Bill O’Brien replacing Steve Sarkisian after the latter took the head coaching job at Texas. Bama’s process will roll on, but it might happen slowly enough for a solid Miami team to cover a large spread the first week.

The Bama defense, under coordinator Pete Golding, has nine starters back and none of the uncertainty facing the offense. But at least Miami has the right QB to go after that defense, plus an offensive line that should be above average for the Power 5. King will need at least one receiver to have a huge day against Bama’s always-great secondary, and the best candidate is Oklahoma transfer Charleston Rambo, who had a disappointing 2020 and then made the move to Miami in hopes of forming a dynamite tandem with King. Rambo has the straight-line speed and the hands to be a problem for any secondary, even one of Bama’s caliber.

Something else works in Miami’s favor, at least as far as the spread is concerned: Bama’s newly formed depth chart on offense might give Saban an incentive to empty the bench if things get out of hand. That, in turn, might create a situation where Saban’s desire to evaluate more of his roster turns into Miami’s opportunity to pull out a backdoor cover. Saban might pull Young and have his backup, Paul Tyson, hand off a bunch in the fourth quarter, as he did when Young replaced Mac Jones in the second quarter of last year’s Week 2 game against Missouri when Saban’s late-game management helped the Tigers cover a 24-point spread in a blowout loss. It won’t be pretty, but enough things point to Miami staying inside a nearly three-TD spread.

Alabama vs. Miami Pick: Miami + 19 @ -110

Alex Kirshner
alex_kirshner
Alex Kirshner covers college football for the Moon Crew newsletter. He is a co-author of The Sinful Seven: Sci-Fi Western Legends of the NCAA, and he lives in Washington, D.C.
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