Nick Saban needs to start Bryce Young right away over Mac Jones

Mac Jones, Alabama Crimson Tide. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Mac Jones, Alabama Crimson Tide. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Nick Saban must start Bryce Young Week 1 if he wants to win a championship.

Alabama football head coach Nick Saban must pick Bryce Young over Mac Jones in fall camp.

It’s an incredibly difficult and a potentially divisive issue in Alabama Crimson Tide football circles, but this is what it will take to give Saban his best shot at a national title this year. The Crimson Tide return a ton of top-tier upperclassmen, which is a major reason they’re the runaway favorites to come out of the SEC and make the College Football Playoff for the sixth time in seven years.

However, what Saban does at the quarterback position will set the tone for how Alabama plays the rest of the way. In Jones, he knows he has a capable starter who can win him a ton of games. But the question is what is his ceiling? Is he closer to Greg McElroy or A.J. McCarron territory or is he closer to the Blake Sims or Jacob Coker realm? Either way, his ceiling isn’t what Young’s is.

Young may be a true freshman coming over by way of California, but he could be the next Tua Tagovailoa or the next Jalen Hurts for the Crimson Tide. Even though McCarron was a tremendous player for the Tide, there’s a reason Tagovailoa and Hurts went in the first two rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft, while McCarron is a career backup after going in the fifth round in 2014.

Why is it so important Bryce Young gets the starting nod over Mac Jones?

There are plenty of reasons Young needs to edge out Jones for the job. It’s not to say Jones can’t be excellent for the Crimson Tide, but 2020 is about winning championships for Alabama. Saban will be turning 69 (nice!) on Halloween this year. How many elite college football coaches are there dominating the competition well into their 70s? This may be his last best shot at No. 6 at Alabama.

Alabama has a challenging eight-game SEC slate this year. The Crimson Tide begin conference play vs. the SEC East favorite Georgia Bulldogs. While that game will be in Tuscaloosa, the Dawgs won the last time they played at Bryant-Denny back in 2007. Georgia is out for crimson blood vs. the Tide. Plus, they have two great quarterbacks on their roster in Jamie Newman and JT Daniels.

Newman and Daniels project as future first-round NFL Draft picks. Young might be of that ilk one day, but Jones will be lucky to get drafted by somebody, you know, if he’s the next McElroy or McCarron. Simply put, you do not want to be at a quarterbacking disadvantage at home in front of a reduced capacity crowd. You drop that game to the playoff-contending Dawgs and it’ll get rough.

While the Crimson Tide are fortunate to get the SEC West-contending Texas A&M Aggies and the arch rival Auburn Tigers at home this year, those meetings come in late November. Alabama has three tough road dates between the Georgia game and its final two conference games vs. Auburn and Texas A&M: At the Ole Miss Rebels, at the Tennessee Volunteers and at the LSU Tigers.

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Saban has had his challenges winning in Oxford. Now that one of his top disciples Lane Kiffin is running the show at Ole Miss, don’t be shocked if his Rebels stun the Crimson Tide. Eventually, Tennessee will beat cross-divisional rival Alabama. Another Saban disciple in Jeremy Pruitt has Rocky Top trending in the right direction. Perhaps he’ll get another signature victory this year?

Then, there’s the Bayou Bengals’ date in Death Valley. Regardless of if there are fans in the seats, there is not a more difficult road environment than playing LSU on a Baton Rouge Saturday night. While the Tigers might be in a bit of a rebuild/reload this season, this is a game they should still beat the Tide, given where this game is being played and the nature of this SEC West rivalry.

So why should Saban give the keys to his Ferrari to a true freshman from California than to a junior he can put a ton of trust in? The SEC West will be a bloodbath this year. As many as four teams can win the division, and that’s not including feisty programs like Ole Miss, the Mississippi State Bulldogs or even a much-improved Arkansas Razorbacks team under Sam Pittman.

It wasn’t that long ago Saban kept the more talented of two quarterbacks on the bench. Had he not put Tagovailoa in the 2017 National Championship Game, the Hawaiian southpaw would have transferred and Georgia wouldn’t be holding 1980 as dearly as Dawg Nation does to this day. If he doesn’t play Young soon enough in 2020 , he will transfer like Tagovailoa would have in 2018.

If Saban picks Young over Jones, that only means he’s dead serious about winning it all in 2020.

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