Who ya got?
That's the question we posed to SEC writers Alex Scarbrough and Sam Khan after this week's unveiling of the league's projected top 25 players. The two teams with the most selections were Alabama and LSU, so we asked Scarbrough and Khan which roster they would rather have, Tide or Tigers?
Here are their answers:
Alex Scarborough: This is not a slam dunk to me. Though I'm certain that Alabama and LSU have the best rosters in the SEC, I'm not sure there's a discernible difference in terms of overall talent. There are NFL-caliber players at basically every position, and they even share the common trait of not knowing exactly what they will get at quarterback.
If I'm forced to choose -- and that is what we're doing here after all -- I'll side with Alabama. Again, it's a 51-49 proposal. But seeing that team up close this week reminded me of just how many playmakers Nick Saban has who have yet to become household names, but will be in the near future. We all know about Calvin Ridley, O.J. Howard, Cam Robinson, Reuben Foster, Eddie Jackson, Tim Williams, Jonathan Allen, and Minkah Fitzpatrick. If you watched more than a handful of Alabama games last season, then you know what to expect from Da'Ron Payne, Marlon Humphrey, and Rashaan Evans, too.
But the casual fans don't always see the layers of undiscovered talent behind them. I'm talking about Cam Sims and Robert Foster at receiver, Jonah Williams and Lester Cotton on the offensive line, Da'Shawn Hand and Dalvin Tomlinson on the defensive line, and Shaun Dion Hamilton and Christian Miller at linebacker. Ronnie Harrison looks like he'll be a starter the next two seasons at safety.
And here's where I really differentiate Alabama and LSU: quarterback. When I look at Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell, Blake Barnett and Jalen Hurts, I see a more talented group of passers than LSU's. I mean, that's three guys who were the top five at their position coming out of high school. Hurts, who was a four-star but not a top-five guy, is downright explosive with great quickness and a strong arm. Though it might take some time for one of those guys to develop, I just feel that there's more for Saban and his staff to choose from.
Sam Khan: For the 2016 season, give me LSU's roster for several reasons, but one big one: the presence of college football's best player -- Leonard Fournette -- on said roster.
Alabama is immensely talented and most years I probably go with the Crimson Tide in this type of debate. And yes, I understand Alabama shut down Fournette when the teams met last season. But I'm not going to bet on that happening again this season. And the Tide don't have a Derrick Henry to counter with this year (though I do think Bo Scarbrough will be good).
You make the point about quarterback, but none of those names you mentioned are players who have played much, if it all. Brandon Harris, though flawed, has two years of experience, and I do think he'll take a significant step forward this season. If he does, the Tigers are going to be in good shape.
I look at the strength of LSU's junior class, headlined by the likes of Fournette, Harris, safety Jamal Adams, receivers Malachi Dupre and D.J. Chark, defensive tackle Davon Godchaux, who all signed with the 2014 recruiting class and will be key to the Tigers' ability to make an SEC title run this season. I see a senior class led by stalwarts such as cornerback Tre'Davious White, receiver Travin Dural, center Ethan Pocic, and linebacker Kendell Beckwith. I see young talent ready to take the next step like offensive linemen Maea Teuhema and Toby Weathersby, or a star in the making as a pass-rusher in Arden Key. Oh, and I didn't even mention Fournette's backup, sophomore running back Derrius Guice, who is a load for opposing defenses to handle.
Most years it's easy to pick the Tide. This year, give me the Tigers' talent.