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2016 SEC Preview: Yep, Alabama’s probably going to win it all again

We wrap up our look at the SEC with the team that usually ends up on top of the heap.

CFP National Championship - Alabama v Clemson Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It seems like every once in a while, we hear that the “Alabama dynasty” has ended and that another team will take their place as the most dominant team in the country. And every time that happens, it seems as if they win the national championship. Like last year. And, well, they might win it again this year.

I guess I should tell you why, right? Well, they tick all of the boxes: solid recruiting as usual by Nick Saban, an electric defense (i.e. Jonathan Allen, Ryan Anderson, Reuben Foster, Eddie Jackson, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Tim Williams), plenty of talented and emerging weapons on offense (Calvin Ridley, Ardarius Stewart, O.J. Howard - and Robert Foster returning from injury), and of course, one of the best coaches of all time on the sideline. That’s not to say that there aren’t questions to be answered: can Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris come close to the production that Derrick Henry provided at running back? How will the defense operate schematically with defensive coordinator Kirby Smart taking the reins from Mark Richt at Georgia? Can anyone pick up where Reggie Ragland left off? Can Fitzpatrick avoid the dreaded sophomore slump after a spectacular start to his career in 2015? And, in what’s become an annual tradition, who will start at quarterback?

Last Year: 14-1 (7-1 SEC); SEC Champions; College Football Playoff National Champions

Top returning player: Cam Robinson

Goodyear Cotton Bowl - Alabama v Michigan State Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Alabama running game was very good last year, and it was thanks to a stout offensive line led by Cam Robinson. With some questions surrounding the RB position this year with Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake in the NFL, it will be on Robinson to neutralize opposing pass rushes as he’s done so many times during his tenure in Tuscaloosa. Criticism of uneven play and a felony charge that hung over him (and was later dropped) have many questioning if he’s the sure bet in the NFL Draft that he’s considered to be, but if Robinson’s at his best, this Tide team can go a long way.

Prognosis

College football fans should circle two dates on their early season calendars: September 3, when the Tide take on Southern Cal at Jerry World, and September 17, when Chad Kelly and Ole Miss host Alabama. If the Tide can get off on the right foot against the Trojans, get an expected win over Western Kentucky and shut down one of the best QBs in the country in Oxford, they could gain some momentum headed into the later portions of the season and potentially march their way to yet another SEC title. Keep an eye on Tennessee (October 15 in Knoxville), LSU (November 5 at Death Valley) and the Iron Bowl (November 26 in Tuscaloosa) as potential stumbling blocks. It’s hard not to see Bama losing more than one game at this point if everything comes together as planned. Then again, despite some lingering questions, it has come together more often than not for this program in past years, so the biggest surprise may be to see someone other than them in the CFP championship game on January 9 if they don’t end up winning it all.