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Jumbo Package: Alabama Goes to Vandy

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Can the Commodores really make a game out of this one?

NCAA Football: Colorado State at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, everyone. As you know, the Tide will be in Nashville tomorrow to face a tough Vanderbilt squad in the preferred 2:30 time slot on CBS. The Tide are heavily favored, and few give the Commodores much of a chance to pull the upset:

Week 4’s matchup against Alabama will be Vandy’s sixth CBS game since 1998, when the series began. In 2014, the fine folks at AL.com put together a comprehensive list of regular season appearances by teams on the network’s SEC game of the week.

To put things in relative terms: Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, LSU, and Georgia have each played on CBS over 50 times, and that’s even with a cap of four games per year per team. Texas A&M and Missouri have each appeared on the network in the regular season more times than the ‘Dores, even though both joined the league in 2012.

Alabama hasn't lost to Vanderbilt since 1984 and is an 18 1/2-point favorite entering Saturday. And, according to SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic, the Commodores are 0-51 all-time against top-five teams.

But Vanderbilt is playing well and has some confidence, as Lealao made clear after the win over Kansas State.

Despite the good vibes from Vanderbilt's early-season success, it still faces a tough task against No. 1 Alabama Saturday.

All four of our staff members predicted a win by the Crimson Tide, who opened as an 18.5-point favorite. But the margin of that outcome varies widely.

The game likely will be an ugly one. Vanderbilt is a good team, but it doesn’t have the athletes to beat Alabama. The Commodores will keep it close for a while, but Jalen Hurts and Alabama’s offense will be too much for Derek Mason’s defense.

Look, this Vandy squad has improved. They managed to pull a tight upset last season over a decent UGA team, earned a hard fought win at home vs. Kansas State last week and they are far more talented than the teams Vanderbilt usually fields. Still, they simply don’t have the athletes across the board to make this game truly competitive. It may be frustrating to watch offensively for a half, but expect the better team to pull away and cover. Let’s call it 34-13.

As always, vote and give us your score in the comments.

Saban gave his team positive reinforcement after it started 3-0. In the past, Saban admitted that he's been too hard on the players even when they have performed well. He also obliquely said he has had to change expectations for this team -- and in particular this defense -- because this squad is different than the 2016 edition. Saban's new approach was concocted after consulting with longtime confidante, Dr. Lonny Rosen.

Note that “different” doesn’t necessarily mean “worse,” hand-wringers. Saban has noted that the personality of this defense is a bit different, more quiet leaders than intimidating voices. Whether you’re talking about Nolan Ryan, Jerry Rice, Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson, the greats are often known for an obsession with self-improvement. Anything that they or anyone else perceived as a minor flaw in their games had to be corrected, no matter what it took. Saban has had this type of mentality as a coach, and his ability to constantly improve and adapt himself is perhaps his greatest trait.

"But Greg Byrne and I met about doing this in the future where we have some home-and-homes with some teams every now and then so we're not always playing in one of these neutral-site games to start the season."

Whether Alabama can set up a home-and-home at any point soon is unclear, though.

The Tide opens each of the next two seasons with neutral site games and then plays Miami in Atlanta to open the 2021 season.

The Tide already has all four of its non-conference games set up for next year and three of four already scheduled for 2019.

Nevertheless, Saban said of scheduling future home-and-homes with fellow Power 5 teams, "No question, I'd love to do it."

As stated, this is an exciting idea but hard to see when it could happen in the foreseeable future.

“I think we’ve had 101 players in the last four years play in their last game, whether it was a playoff or a bowl game, with a degree,” Saban said via email. “That means we have a lot of guys that are graduating in three-and-a-half years, which I think is a real positive for them, whether it’s to go to graduate school or graduate so they can continue a career in football if they have an opportunity to do that.”

Alabama went into the season with the third most graduates on the roster of any team in the nation. Mommas, let your babies play for Saban.

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.

Roll Tide.

Poll

What will the final score be in the Alabama-Vandy game?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Tide anchors them down to cover, wins by 20+
    (405 votes)
  • 39%
    Vandy plays it tough, Tide by 10-19
    (292 votes)
  • 5%
    Too close for comfort, Tide by 1-9
    (40 votes)
  • 1%
    Vandy shocks the football world (FLAGGED!)
    (11 votes)
748 votes total Vote Now