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Alabama Will Use Season Opener Versus West Virginia As Stepping Stone

Posted by Blake Frazier on 8/20/2014 9:28:51 PM

For the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide the road to a national title begins against West Virginia at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta opening weekend. Things have changed since last year’s loss to Auburn ended dreams of a third-straight BCS Championship and head coach Nick Saban established from the start of spring camp that this season is about being the best once again. The Crimson Tide are scheduled to play three very winnable games before their SEC opener against Florida at the end of September and will need these games to establish an identity at a number of positions including at quarterback.

West Virginia Mountaineers vs. #2 Alabama Crimson Tide

Saturday August 30, 2014 – 3:30 PM ET

Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia

College Football Betting Line: Alabama – 25.5

Saban still hasn’t committed to either Blake Sims or Jake Coker as his starter for the opener and there is a chance that both could see snaps throughout the first three games. Replacing AJ McCarron after his three-year reign won’t be easy but a strong ground game and potentially dominant defense should help the transition early on.

College Football Betting Preview: West Virginia

Senior quarterback Clint Trickett will start the opener for the Mountaineers after getting the nod from the coaching staff in June and will carry with him a 2-7 record as a starter. Trickett has big-play potential but will have to prove he belongs after injuries limited what he could do a year ago. Senior Kevin White headlines a strong returning cast of receivers while senior Dreamius Smith leads a dynamic running back stable that will look to make the transition from Charlie Sims a smooth one. The biggest weakness on the defense a year ago could now be a strength with junior safety Karl Joseph and senior cornerback Ishmael Banks back to lead a talented secondary but they could struggle regardless unless the front-seven can generate pressure against a quality Alabama line.

College Football Betting Preview: Alabama

That line will have three returning starters including a pair of talented seniors in left guard Arie Kouandjio and right tackle Austin Shepherd. It seems as though Saban is always able to plug any holes on either side of the ball with capable starters every year and the offensive line will be key again with the transition at quarterback. Junior running back TJ Yeldon is an outstanding threat both on the ground and in the passing game and has the potential to put up impressive receiving numbers as a safety option for the quarterback. Junior Amari Cooper returns along with seniors DeAndrew White and Christion Jones to form a talented and experienced core of receivers. There are plenty of question marks on a defense that returns only four starters from a year ago. Saban has put an emphasis on establishing the type of consistent pass-rush that was missing last season, and senior linebackers Trey DePriest and Xzavier Dickson will play integral roles.

College Football Betting Preview: Outlook & Pick

It will take time for the Tide to build a legitimate contender this season with substantial turnover both at quarterback and on the defensive side of the ball. West Virginia isn’t ready to beat a team like Alabama just yet but it should certainly be able to cover such a huge number opening up in a neutral spot after having months to prepare.

College Football Betting Pick: West Virginia Mountaineers + 25.5

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