Game Day Primer: What you need to know about Alabama-ULM
While most of the nation has forgotten, there is no way Alabama fans should be looking past Louisiana-Monroe after what happened in 2007. The teams will meet this weekend for the first time in eight years, and an upset will be much tougher for the Warhawks to pull off this go-round.
Louisiana-Monroe (1-1) at Alabama (2-1), Saturday 3:01 p.m. (SEC Network)
Weather: 81 degrees, 14 percent chance of rain
Line: Alabama is favored to win by 38 points.
Numbers to know:
* The Warhawks are technically 1-0 all-time against the Crimson Tide. We say “technically” because the teams traded victories in 2006 and 2007, but Alabama’s win in ’06 was later vacated.
* Monroe has been on the opposite ends of blowouts through its first two games. The Warhawks got smoked by Georgia, 51-14, to open the season, but then thumped Nicholls, 47-0, two weeks ago.
* Alabama coach Nick Saban has not lost a non-conference game in Tuscaloosa since getting stunned by Monroe in 2007. He’s 22-0 in that time.
* Something’s gotta give on Saturday: Alabama ranks eighth nationally in first downs (84), while Monroe ranks seventh in first down defense (34 allowed).
* Alabama ranks ninth in the country in rushing defense, allowing just 72.3 yards per game. Monroe hasn’t made rushing a priority through two games — it ranks 109th with 123.5 yards per contest.
Story lines to watch:
* Will Jake Coker keep his job?: We finally saw some life from Coker against Ole Miss last Saturday. The senior was replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore Cooper Bateman, but entered the game in the second quarter to lead multiple comeback attempts. He threw two costly interceptions, but appeared to show moxie that had previously been lacking at the QB spot. Can Coker keep Bateman off the field until garbage time? It depends on his decision-making against a vulnerable Warhawks defense.
* How will Adam Griffith perform?: You’d be hard-pressed to find another placekicking unit in as much disarray as Alabama’s. The Crimson Tide have struggled to make field goals (1-for-5 through three games) and the backup kicker was just arrested on Thursday. That leaves Adam Griffith to continue doing his best at putting the ball through the uprights. He finally hit from 20 yards against Ole Miss, but even that kick was ugly. Griffith will have plenty of chances to right himself against Monroe — but also plenty of chances to fall deeper into his current funk.
* Can Derrick Henry boost his Heisman case?: Yes, Monroe stunned Alabama eight years ago. No, the Tide should not overlook the Warhawks. But Nick Saban’s team is favored by more than five touchdowns on Saturday, and this will be one of Henry’s final chances to give a big artificial boost to his stats. He’s off to a strong start — 370 yards and seven TDs — and he’ll probably need at least another 150 yards and two touchdowns to keep his campaign chugging along.
My prediction: Alabama 51, Louisiana-Monroe 17.