There are plenty of good games on the schedule for the opening weekend of the 2016 college football season, and one of the best involves the defending national champions. No. 1 Alabama starts their title defense with a game at AT&T Stadium against No. 20 USC on Saturday night.
The Crimson Tide begin this year much like they did last year—as one of the national champion favorites, taking on the No.20 team in the country. Last season’s opener ended with an 18-point win for Alabama, and Saturday could produce a similar result.
Alabama enters the contest as a 12-point favorite at Las Vegas sportsbooks, and the team is undefeated in season openers under head coach Nick Saban. All of those victories have come by double-digits, including three wins against top-10 opponents.
It won’t be easy for Alabama to replicate their performance from a season ago, considering some of their top players are no longer in college. Quarterback Jake Coker is gone, as is Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. The Crimson Tide ranked third in total defense with the nation’s best front seven, but three members of that group were selected within the top 50 picks of the 2016 NFL Draft.
But the Crimson Tide still have more talent than any other team in college football, replacing their stars with top recruits. Bo Scarbrough has a chance to become one of the nation’s best running backs, and Cooper Bateman and Blake Barnett should find success splitting time at quarterback. They’ll have a top wide receiver corps at their disposal, led by Calvin Ridley, who caught 89 passes as a freshman.
Despite all of the talent that Alabama has, it’s not impossible for USC to pull off the upset. The Trojans return running backs Ronald Jones II and Justin Davis, both of whom came close to reaching the 1,000-yard mark in 2015. Max Browne is entering his first season as the starting quarterback, but he has some experience since he's a redshirt junior.
Alabama, however, is probably too well-coached with too much of an advantage on defense to drop the season opener.
Start Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Online Stream: WatchESPN
Prediction: Alabama over USC, 35-20