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Jumbo Package: Early lines favor Tide by a touchdown over LSU

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Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Louisiana State John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, everyone. A couple of initial lines were released, and Vegas likes Alabama by about a touchdown next weekend.

Alabama has opened as a 7-point home favorite over the Tigers, a team the Crimson Tide have beaten eight consecutive times dating back to 2012. Nick Saban said Wednesday his star signal caller is a game-time decision based on how he progresses over the next week-and-a-half prior to kickoff.

That sounds about right, though I have a feeling it would be more like 10 if Tua hadn’t turned his ankle. ESPN FPI gives the Tide a 71.9% chance to win the game.

One somewhat troubling, though not surprising, note from practice yesterday:

— I didn’t see Najee Harris during the portion of the viewing period I was looking at the running backs. Harris sustained a twisted ankle against Arkansas on Saturday. With Harris not out there, Brian Robinson was first up during running back drills. Freshman Keilan Robinson was second.

We knew that Najee had twisted his ankle and would be taking it easy, but it’s still something to watch. Of course, the media viewing period was about five minutes.

“Look, I think everybody knows how important every game is, but this next game is obviously one that has significant impact on a lot of things in the future,” Saban said, “and I think that everybody contributes in the best way that they can. Each player tries to be the best version of themselves in terms of their preparation and what they’ve got to do to play well in the game.

“And all of our fans and supporters need to be the best versions of themselves when they come to support the team. I think that there’s got to be a 12th man that has an impact on the game, and I know our fans will, and we certainly appreciate it.”

The crowd needs to be a factor, and I have a feeling it will be. The idea of a nonconference rivalry game with someone like Florida State, who this interview references, would be interesting, though I imagine that most fans would probably rather change it up.

Alabama has been featuring some very heavy personnel recently.

The burden has not been a hindrance to efficiency. Against Arkansas, UA ran 14 plays with either Owens and Randolph on the field as tight ends and two plays over tackle over. In those 16 plays, UA averaged 6.625 yards per play; nearly half of them resulted in either first downs or touchdowns, five first downs and two touchdowns.

That yards per play number could be better, if both of the touchdowns were not for one yard and one play that was busted by a high snap.

UA has also shown versatility out of the package. It has thrown five times with either Owens or Randolph on the field as a tight end, although not to either one of them yet, and has put both of them on the field at the same time — both times resulting in touchdowns against Arkansas.

We’ve debated this on here at times, but there are many ways to run the football. Running out of four wide sets gets an extra defensive back on the field, and when you have bigger backs like Alabama does, that creates an advantage. Bringing in a sixth and sometimes even seventh offensive lineman means more linebackers, but you like the matchup there when your “tight end” is really a 300-lb. former blue chip offensive lineman. More space is also created in the secondary, though the back end numbers favor the defense more.

It all comes down to matchups, and Saban probably views the offensive line as the deepest unit on this roster. He has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal that rivals the 2015 defensive line group, so why not use them? We will only see more of this with the season ending injury to Miller Forristall.

JaCoby Stevens hopes that Tua plays.

“I feel like any competitor would,” Stevens told AL.com. “I’m pretty sure the guys at Alabama want to beat us at our best. They don’t want us to be limping in. They want us to be strong and they want us to be at our fullest at 100 percent if they do beat us. That’s the same here. We want to beat them when they’re at their best, too. That’s a competitive mindset.”

That’s a good mentality to have.

Trevon Diggs had himself a game last week.

To recap, he was targeted thrice. One was caught, one hit the ground, and he took one to the house.

Alex Kirshner over at the Banner Society wrote a funny piece about the game.

13. Listen to ‘Callin’ Baton Rouge’ on repeat for an hour

It’s biologically impossible to hear Garth Brooks say these words ...

Operator won’t you put me on through

I gotta’ send my love down to Baton Rouge

Hurry up won’t you put her on the line

I gotta’ talk to the girl just one more time

... and then pick against the Tigers. It cannot be done.

LSU has never had more fans, folks.

Last, Kenyan Drake was traded to Arizona and he had a monster debut.

Drake arrived in a trade from the winless team early this week and played a prominent role for Arizona in his debut. Drake ran 15 times for 110 yards and caught four passes for 52 yards as the team played without David Johnson and Chase Edmonds. He also scored the team’s first touchdown of the game.

He won’t put up those kinds of numbers with everyone healthy, but he is in his contract year. That was a fantastic audition for teams who will be shopping for RB in the offseason.

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

Roll Tide.