Alabama’s 11-1 season gave the Crimson Tide the No. 4 seed in the 2017 College Football Playoff and a rematch against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. Here’s a look back at every game on the road to New Orleans.
Alabama 24, Florida State 7
Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta, Ga.)
Recap: A much-hyped season opener began as a defensive struggle before Alabama fought its way past No. 3 Florida State. The Crimson Tide got a boost from special teams miscues by the Seminoles to help seize control. Alabama blocked a game-tying field goal attempt, blocked a punt and recovered a fumble on a kickoff that led to a touchdown. The defense limited FSU to just 250 total yards, but lost four linebackers: Anfernee Jennings and Rashaan Evans were out two weeks, while Terrell Lewis and Christian Miller were expected to miss the remainder of the season. They would eventually return to play against Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
Quotable: “They were an aggressive defense, brought a lot of blitzes, things like that. Some things that weren’t accounted for in the protections. So again, things to learn from and get better at. It was definitely a heavy blitz and pressure defense. So obviously there’s some things to clean up there, but it’s nothing we can’t do better at if we do our job.”
– Left tackle Jonah Williams
Alabama 41, Fresno State 10
Recap: The Alabama offense hummed in its home opener, running up 497 yards and clearing the benches early in the fourth quarter. Jalen Hurts passed for 128 yards and a touchdown and ran for 154 yards and another score. The backup defense surrendered a touchdown in the fourth quarter and the score might not have been gaudy, but there was no doubt that Alabama controlled this game. Alabama’s defensive front labored a bit following such a major loss of depth at the linebacker position, but did manage two sacks and two more tackles for loss. Fresno State lost the next week at Washington, but won eight of its next nine and played for the Mountain West championship.
Quotable: “I think we did a good job of executing the game plan. Came out and played hard and did a way better job of executing.”
–Quarterback Jalen Hurts
Alabama 41, Colorado State 23
Recap: The Rams threw a handful of punches early against Alabama, but the Crimson Tide took over by early in the fourth quarter with a 41-10 lead. The backup offense entered the game briefly before Colorado State began to make things interesting. The Rams scored a touchdown against the second-team defense, forced a three-and-out, then scored another touchdown. They failed to recover an onside kick, and Nick Saban re-inserted the starting offense to safely wind down the clock. Hurts finished with 248 passing yards and two touchdowns along with 103 rushing yards and a score. Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough also had rushing touchdowns, and Robert Foster turned his only catch into a 52-yard score.
Quotable: “We started to try to play other players, but they didn’t do a very good job functionally, and we let them back in the game; that experience will be good for those players down the road.”
– Coach Nick Saban
Alabama 59, Vanderbilt 0
Vanderbilt Stadium (Nashville, Tenn.)
Recap: Vanderbilt entered the game 3-0 after a big win at home over Kansas State, but the Commodores’ momentum fell apart immediately. Alabama’s first drive stalled before the Crimson Tide scored touchdowns on its next four possessions to build a 28-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Alabama inserted backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in the third quarter, and he passed for two touchdowns. Alabama ran up 677 total offensive yards while holding Vanderbilt to 78, setting a school record for its biggest shutout in SEC play. Injured linebackers Rashaan Evans and Anfernee Jennings, who were hurt three weeks before this game against Florida State, made surprising comebacks and contributed in the win.
Quotable: “At Alabama, we want to be respected, and we don’t feel like they were showing us respect. So, we came out here and tried to play Alabama football.”
– Quarterback Jalen Hurts
Alabama 66, Ole Miss 3
Recap: After three years of up-and-down rides against Ole Miss, Alabama made sure to put the Rebels down early. Alabama scored touchdowns on three of its first four drives and got an interception that was returned 35 yards for a touchdown by Levi Wallace right off the bat. The backups didn’t back off when they entered the game in the third quarter after just one second-half drive from the starters. Najee Harris, Tua Tagovailoa, Henry Ruggs III and Ronnie Clark all scored touchdowns. The 66 points was the most for Alabama since 1979, and it was the first time Alabama scored 50-plus in back-to-back SEC games since 1945. Those blowouts against conference competition would lead coach Nick Saban to make a memorable comment after the following week’s win over Texas A&M.
Quotable: “We just pride ourselves in making it hard for other teams. We just stick to the game plan that Coach (Jeremy) Pruitt has for us every week, and it has been working out well.”
– Cornerback Levi Wallace
Alabama 27, Texas A&M 19
Kyle Field (College Station, Texas)
Recap: This one looked closer than it was thanks to a late score by the Aggies. Alabama led 24-3 midway through the third quarter and appeared to be on its way to a comfortable road win before Texas A&M made things interesting. The Aggies recovered a fumble with good field position to score a touchdown and make it a two-score game, then notched a safety on a blocked punt. Alabama kicked a field goal to push the lead to 27-12 with 2:09 to go, and Texas A&M’s two-minute offense punched a touchdown in with 17 seconds left. The Aggies failed to recover an onside kick, sealing Alabama’s win. Damien Harris had a 75-yard touchdown run as part of a 129-yard day on the ground.
Quotable: “All that stuff you write about how good we are, and all that stuff they hear on ESPN, it’s like poison. You know what I mean? It’s like taking poison. Like rat poison. I’m asking them, ‘Are you going to listen to me, or are you going to listen to these guys about how good you are?’ … We’re not going to beat everybody 66-3.”
– Coach Nick Saban
Alabama 41, Arkansas 9
Recap: The margin wasn’t quite as impressive as some of Alabama’s earlier SEC blowouts, but this was a dominating performance nonetheless. Damien Harris scored on a 75-yard touchdown run on the first play and Alabama led 17-0 by the end of the first quarter. The Alabama defense limited the Razorbacks to just 27 rushing yards and less than one yard per carry. It also got five sacks, harassing quarterback Cole Kelley as he tried to keep his team in the game with 42 pass attempts. Arkansas’ only touchdown came with three minutes left in the game with the outcome decided. This win ran Nick Saban’s record against Arkansas to 11-0 at Alabama.
Quotable: “That was how we wanted to start the game off. We wanted to start fast and set the tone on offense. We got the ball first, and we took advantage of that. The line did a great job getting movement, wideouts were blocking on the perimeter and I was able to get an explosive run. There are a lot of parts that went into it, everything was working in the same direction, and so we were able to have a lot of success there.”
– Running back Damien Harris
Alabama 45, Tennessee 7
Recap: Bo Scarbrough scored twice on fourth-and-goal from the 1 for Alabama’s opening touchdowns. The offense kept rolling from there, scoring on four of its next five drives to build an insurmountable lead. Tennessee’s offense had scored just one touchdown in three games before this, and the defense posted the Vols’ only score in this game. Alabama’s defense held the opposition to 108 total yards and harassed quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. Linebacker Rashaan Evans delivered a massive hit on Guarantano on the final play before halftime that set the tone for the day. Tennessee would eventually finish the season 0-8 in SEC play. Alabama entered its bye week 8-0 with the toughest portion of its schedule still ahead.
Quotable: “To be honest with you, I didn’t even realize it was that big of a hit. When the helmet flew off, I saw it was rolling on the ground and I was like yeah, that might have been a big hit.”
–Linebacker Rashaan Evans
Alabama 24, LSU 10
Recap: LSU gave Alabama it’s toughest test yet. The Crimson Tide chipped away at the Tiger defense and had a 14-3 lead at halftime, but the offense never found room to run up the score. Alabama finished with just 299 total yards and only managed 3.2 yards per carry. But the Crimson Tide didn’t have any turnovers and got an outstanding performance from punter JK Scott, who made sure LSU never started a drive with good field position. The LSU offense hit a couple big plays but couldn’t break through when needed. Alabama lost the battle on third down on both offense and defense but prevailed anyway. Inside linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton was lost for the season to a knee injury and Mack Wilson injured his foot in this game.
Quotable: “I was talking to Javier Arenas last week about being a specialist and he emphasized the importance of taking every rep in practice like it’s a game. I’ve been told that before, but the way he put it made it real to me.”
– Punter JK Scott
Alabama 31, Mississippi State 24
Davis Wade Stadium (Starkville, Miss.)
Recap: The road wouldn’t get any easier following a hard-fought game against LSU when Alabama went to Starkville. Mississippi State took the early lead, and Alabama trailed 17-24 early in the fourth quarter. Then Hurts and Josh Jacobs sparked the offense on a 10-play, 82-yard drive to tie the game. The defense got a quick stop to get the ball back to the offense, and it delivered a 57-yard touchdown drive to silence the cowbells. Mississippi State had a final throw to the end zone on the last play, but it fell incomplete. Calvin Ridley had a monster night with five catches for 171 yards. Hurts, Harris and Jacobs all had rushing touchdowns. The Bulldogs converted 8 of 15 third downs in the game, foretelling problems for the defense later in the season.
Quotable: “We all talked about finishing this year. In a game like this, like last year at Clemson, this year we have to finish. We finished out there.”
– Cornerback Anthony Averett
Alabama 56, Mercer 0
Recap: Alabama’s annual tune-up for the Iron Bowl went exactly as planned. The offense had 530 yards, with exactly 265 on the ground and 265 through the air. The defense got its second shutout and gave up just 161 yards. There were no major injuries as a handful of players continued to sit out and heal up. Jalen Hurts converted all seven of his passes before he took the rest of the day off. Calvin Ridley had three catches for 103 yards and a touchdown before his day ended. Freshman linebacker Dylan Moses led the team with 11 tackles, including four for a loss, while taking a bigger role in the middle of the defense.
Quotable: “There were two things we wanted to do today. We wanted to play to a standard and create momentum as we move forward and we wanted to win for our seniors.”
– Coach Nick Saban
Auburn 26, Alabama 14
Jordan-Hare Stadium (Auburn, Ala.)
Recap: Any and all of the flaws Alabama showed earlier in the season reared their heads in this loss. Christian Miller, Terrell Lewis and Mack Wilson all made surprising returns from injury, but the defense struggled anyway. Auburn converted 9 of 18 third downs while Alabama moved the chains on just 3 of 13. Jarrett Stidham stood and delivered 237 passing yards and fought for 51 yards on the ground. Kerryon Johnson kept his legs moving and picked up 104 yards and a score. Alabama looked to have momentum with a touchdown drive to open the second half that regained the lead, but didn’t score again. A handful of uncharacteristic mistakes doomed any comeback attempt for Alabama. Auburn fans stormed the field at Jordan-Hare once again.
Quotable: “I am sorry that I could not do a better job as a coach and as a leader to help them play better in this game so that they would have an opportunity to play in the SEC championship.”
– Coach Nick Saban