Theoretically, Alabama will play a football game this Saturday. I say “theoretically,” because in the traditional sense of a football game as a competition, each team fighting to outscore the other, this engagement falls well short. The outcome of this game, in terms of wins and losses, is preordained. Alabama will win, easily.
Yes, I know all the forewarnings. I know that Nick Saban hates this sentiment and will probably give an impromptu reenactment of the first scene of Full Metal Jacket at Wednesday’s press conference. I was there for the famous Tin Horn speech. But the reality is that these teams are not scheduled to be a potential loss, but to be a practice opponent, a scrimmage before the Iron Bowl and the postseason. Teams are selected, at least partially, to test Alabama in some way, while still allowing for a break in the schedule.
The Mocs of UT-Chattanooga are a top-tier FCS team, ranked 11th in that division. They lost to Wofford narrowly last week, largely because of turnovers near their own goal line. Other than that, their only loss on the season is to The Citadel, an undefeated team.
They’re a running team, at heart, led by an all-conference back named Derrick Craine, who averages 6.1 yards per carry, much of which comes behind all-American left guard Corey Levin. Alabama’s rush defense should have no trouble against this unit.
The key matchup, and the most important learning opportunity in this game, is Alabama’s passing offense against UT-Chattanooga’s secondary, the best in FCS. The Mocs are allowing just 139 passing yards each game, with five interceptions on the season. This is a chance for Jalen Hurts and the passing offense to work out some issues against a well-coached unit in a game situation before the margin for error becomes infinitesimal.
- Hurts was named SEC co-offensive player of the week, which should probably be “offensive co-player of the week,” but what can you do? He also led Alabama’s internal players of the week.
- O.J. Howard was named a semifinalist for the John Mackey award, given to the nation’s best tight end.
- Terrin Waack at The Tuscaloosa News examines Alabama’s record in, and the importance of, November.
- ArDarius Stewart’s had a breakout season, largely out of the jet sweep, writes Ben Jones of The Tuscaloosa News.
- In basketball news, the Crimson Tide has a lunchtime special at home against Dayton on Tuesday, a rematch of a 32-point beatdown delivered in Dayton last year.
- The Gulf Coast’s own Ryan Anderson has a former Alabama great to thank for his success — his cousin and current Cincinnati Bengal Wallace Gilberry, from AL.com’s Matt Zenitz.
- Infamously, former Alabama defensive back Maurice Smith scored UGA’s lone-and-winning touchdown against Auburn last Saturday, giving the SEC West title to his old school. His ex-teammates went wild.
- Kevin Scarbinsky has already marked the Iron Bowl down as an Alabama win. Also, Auburn apparently calls the end of its schedule Amen Corner?
- Speaking of the Iron Bowl, that game has been scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS and will be accompanied by SEC Nation.
- From BamaOnline’s Charlie Potter, Saban and players react to Upset Saturday, which is apparently what we’re calling it.
- Offensive lineman Alphonse Taylor’s season could be over.
- Even after Upset Saturday, not much has really changed, writes SEC Country’s Alex Martin Smith.
- And finally, Roll Bama Roll has its weekly advanced stat box score from the win over Mississippi State.
Saban in full
You may think Saban’s relatively calm demeanor portends well for the media this week, but if another cupcake week rant is coming, it’ll be Wednesday.
Built by Bama
Been hearing @TheHumble_21's name a lot lately.
Dude has been a nightmare for QBs.
4 INTs in NYG's last 3 games.https://t.co/ZA6YLG71s5
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) November 15, 2016
- Landon Collins came away with another interception in the Giants’ 21-20 win over Cincinnati.
- Dre Kirkpatrick had one of his own on the losing side.
- Wallace Gilberry left that game with an injury.
- Former Alabama pitcher Spencer Turnbull had a decent outing in the instructional league, posting no earned runs and three hits with four strikeouts in four innings, but most importantly, he plunked Tebow.
— Spencer Turnbull (@spencerturnbull) November 14, 2016
Alabama finds itself in an unusual position at the end of the season. As the only remaining unbeaten Power Five team in the nation, and with the SEC West clinched, the Crimson Tide could lose the Iron Bowl and still make the playoff —possibly still as the top-seeded team. With that in mind, some have suggested Saban and staff would be wise to rest the starters and second string against Auburn. While the first reaction many have to this idea is to shout “Blasphemy!” it’s an interesting thought exercise and illustration of the effect the playoff has had on the regular season.
All of this to say, what do you think? Should Alabama rest its starters in the Iron Bowl?
Around the Capstone
- Women’s basketball crushed Mississippi Valley State, 93-44. The Crimson Tide will host Lipscomb on Thursday.
- Golfer Davis Riley placed sixth at a tournament with an excessively long and corporate name.
From the SEC Shorts team at AL.com, Alabama’s dominance creates headaches for the playoff rankings promoters.
That’s it from me today. Until tomorrow, y’all be good to each other.