TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama hosts Kentucky for homecoming inside Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. (ET) on ESPN.
Here are five things to watch:
5. Will off-field issues be a distraction?
That’s a lot to take in such a short period of time. How does this affect Alabama on the field?
Surely the coaching staff will work to block out any and all distractions leading up to the game. But it’s still something to monitor this week for the defending national champions.
4. Will injured players play?
Alabama coach Nick Saban listed three key offensive players as game-time decisions on Wednesday. Running back Damien Harris (ankle) and wide receivers ArDarius Stewart (knee) and Robert Foster (knee) are all working to get back from their injuries.
Harris is dealing with an ankle injury suffered against Kent State this past Saturday. Stewart and Foster both are dealing with lingering knee injuries.
If Harris can’t go, freshman running back Joshua Jacobs likely gets the start. Jacobs stepped in for Harris against Kent State. He rushed for 97 yards and 2 touchdown in his first extended action of the season.
Wide receivers Cam Sims and freshman Trevon Diggs likely would step in for Stewart. Sims caught 4 passes for 54 yards in place of Stewart vs. Kent State. Diggs had 3 catches for 23 yards in the Kent State game.
3. Work on the passing game
This was one of our points last week, and it’s still an important issue. Alabama needs to continue working on its downfield passing game. We know what Jalen Hurts can do as a runner. We have an idea of what he can do as a passer, but there still are question marks.
Hurts has overthrown receivers. He’s also been late on some deep balls. But it’s not all Hurts’ fault. Alabama’s receivers have dropped plenty of passes through three games.
This is an SEC game, but Alabama should be able to clean up some of the chemistry issues in the passing game. Look for Alabama to focus on the passing game so Hurts gets more comfortable going through his reads and making quick decisions.
2. Settle on an offensive line
Alabama has been rotating players on the interior of its offensive line all season. Last week, we saw Alphonse Taylor and Lester Cotton rotating at right guard.
Does that competition continue this week? Both Taylor and Cotton are talented players. Taylor has the edge from an experience standpoint having started all 15 games last season.
Left tackle Cam Robinson and right tackle Jonah Williams are locks to start. Bradley Bozeman appears to be the guy at center. Ross Pierschbacher has seemingly won the left guard spot. The only question mark is right guard. We’d guess the job belongs to Taylor, but anything can happen at this point.
1. Get Cooper Bateman and David Cornwell some reps
Redshirt junior Cooper Bateman is the easy choice as Alabama’s backup quarterback with Barnett gone. Bateman served as the backup quarterback to Jake Coker last season.
He started one game last season during the competition with Coker. He’s thrown for 294 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions throughout his career.
Redshirt sophomore David Cornwell is the No. 3 quarterback at this point. Cornwell was knocked out of the competition because of a foot injury suffered this offseason. He saw his first game action of the season last Saturday against Kent State.