Happy Friday, everyone. The Tide welcome the Arkansas State Red Wolves tomorrow for the home opener. Game previews are understandably a bit scarce, but we’ll start with what we have.
Arkansas State’s offense was clicking on all cylinders in the season opener against Southeastern Missouri State. Quarterback Justice Hansen threw for 423 yards and six touchdowns while 11 different Red Wolves had at least one reception on the day. With nearly 400 more yards of total offense and twice as many first downs, Arkansas State moved to 1-0 with a 48-21 win.
Justice Hansen is one of the best quarterbacks in the Sun Belt, and he’s coming off a six-touchdown performance against Southeast Missouri State. That’s a long way from Tuscaloosa. Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts account for six touchdowns in this one, and it doesn’t matter the order those come in. Alabama wins 51-10 and COVERS the spread.
Add it all up, and Saban’s Alabama teams have gone 9-0 straight-up and 8-1 against the spread in Week 1 neutral-site games. In the home openers that followed, however, those Tide teams have gone 8-0 straight-up but a dismal 1-7 against the spread. Alabama has been favored by an average of 35.8 points in those games but, in the games it failed to cover the spread, the Tide fell short by an average by 8.6 points.
Alabama’s big-play offensive potential was on full display early last Saturday evening when Tagovailoa came out firing in leading the Tide to touchdown-scoring drives on three of its first four offensive series against Louisville. Expect more of the same as Alabama’s first-team offense utilizes its many weapons to attack its opposition early and often and establish some momentum leading into next weekend’s SEC opener at Ole Miss. While Louisville was not an elite defense by any means, the fact that the Tide put up 51 points and more than 500 yards of total offense against the ACC contender should spell doom for an Arkansas State defense that allowed 21 points and 285 yards of offense to Southeast Missouri last week. Don’t be surprised if this is another snoozer that is effectively decided in the first half. Alabama 61, Arkansas State 21
In theory, Arkansas State could hang with Alabama for a while if the Red Wolves do not press and make the usual mental mistakes most underdog teams make in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Justice Hansen can spin it, but will have everything thrown at him by Bama defensive coordinators Pete Golding and Tosh Lupoi that he may hear footsteps early and often.
In 2016, Arkansas State traveled to Jordan-Hare Stadium hoping to make a statement but fell to the SEC blue blood 51-14. Different teams all the way around, but a similar fate could be waiting the Red Wolves.
Prediction: Alabama 45, Arkansas State 21
Arkansas State is certainly better than your typical cupcake. They have been to bowl games for the past seven consecutive seasons, including a 31-13 whipping of UCF (snicker) in the 2016 Cure Bowl. Still, it’s not a matter of whether Alabama wins the game, but whether they can emerge healthy, get the backups plenty of reps and, though Saban cares not one whit about it, cover the spread.
As mentioned above, however, Alabama rarely covers in week two. Saban uses this week to work on kinks, and the results are usually rather ugly. Expect some of the same this week: if there was a concept that they didn’t execute well vs. Louisville, they will run it several times tomorrow. If a guy struggled to cover on an island, they will make him cover on an island. The front four will be asked to get pressure without blitzing. Alabama fans will infamously be frustrated with a blowout win once again.
Vegas has the game at about 51-15, nearly identical to last week’s margin. I’m going to go a bit more conservative and call it 45-16.
Of course, that’s just my opinion. Share your thoughts in the comments.
A few other notes:
“I thought he’d do as good a job and he had better stats catching the ball, making good decisions and judgments as anyone else on our team,” Nick Saban said Wednesday. “I’m a little different, I thought if we put him back there and he struggled we could always go back to Trevon Diggs who is really good at getting the ball fielded, and is a really good returner. Probably not as explosive as Jaylen. So we wanted to give him an opportunity rather than put the other guy in, then he goes in and something goes wrong. So we felt good about him and he obviously did a good job in the game.”
I mean, there’s that and the fact that he may well be the fastest player on the team witha clear knack for finding the creases.
-- Saban: “We’ll get challenged in this game.” Said Arkansas State’s offensive scheme is tough to defend.
-- Saban said Arkansas State is “very good” on offense. Said the quarterback is good and that they’ve got some big, physical wide receivers.
-- Saban: “People don’t have the proper respect for Arkansas State.” Referenced them being in the same conference in Troy, which -- as he pointed out -- beat LSU last year. And, as he said, Arkansas State has been a better team than Troy.
If you think for a minute that he didn’t intentionally get that little dig at LSU, you ain’t paying attention.
“I think it’s the first game, so there’s a reason it’s the first game,” Williams said.
“We have a lot of practice ahead of us and a lot of games ahead of us, so I think there’s a lot of things we can clean up as far as assignments go. And credit to their defense, their defensive coordinator. They’re kind of known for running kind of exotic blitzes. There’s one blitz they have 41 ways to run the same blitz. So, some things I think, especially if you’re inexperienced, are going to be tough to pick up. But I think that, overall, we played well. We all know we have a lot to improve on, and that’s what our focus is going forward.”
The OL actually graded out well on the evening. Sending a bunch of exotic junk without the necessary talent in the secondary to cover is Brian Van Gorder’s #brand. His defenses will always get torched against even above average QBs, let alone Tua Tagovailoa.
That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.