Heading into the 2014 season for the first time in four years without AJ McCarron will be a tough thought for the Alabama Crimson Tide, but if there is any team in the nation who reloads instead of rebuilding, it’s them. You can never count the Tide out, especially after a season in which they didn’t win a nation title — they’re hungry.
Finishing the 2013 season with a lousy 4-8 record was something that head coach Dana Holgorsen wasn’t used to and he won’t let himself get used to. The West Virginia Mountaineers finished seventh in the Big 12 with a 2-7 conference record and will hope for much, much more as they return six starters on both sides of the ball.
Alabama has a bit of a quarterback competition on its hands as Florida State transfer Jacob Coker is battling it out with fifth-year senior and dual-threat QB Blake Sims. According to reports from CBSSports.com, Sims is expected to start for the West Virginia game and Coker is expected to also see some playing time. Luckily for the Crimson Tide, they still have a top running back by the name of T.J. Yeldon to fall back on if times get tough in the passing game. The junior has already accounted for 2,343 yards and 26 touchdowns in two seasons in Tuscaloosa. Amari Cooper and Christion Jones will both ease the mind of the new quarterback, whoever he may be, as they are both two of the best receiving weapons in the nation.
Holgorsen has named Clint Trickett the starting quarterback for the Mountaineers this season. Trickett wasn’t exactly the most impressive starter on offense last season for the 4-8 Mountaineers, but he has the most experience at the position and he did pass for 1,605 yards and seven touchdowns. He will need to improve his completion percentage if he wants to remain the starter throughout the entirety of the season. Trickett will be getting some help from lead returning wide out Kevin White who accounted for 35 catches for 507 yards and five touchdowns in 2013. Senior running back Dreamius Smith leads the rushing attack while Pittsburgh transfer Rushel Shell could be a force as well.
Alabama will travel to the Georgia Dome to take on the Mountaineers at 3:30 p.m. EST on Saturday, Aug. 30. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN.
PREDICTION: West Virginia 14, Alabama 37
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at email@example.com.