The No. 2-ranked Alabama football team has some questions heading into its SEC opener Saturday in Columbia, against South Carolina. Here are four:
1. Can the UA defense put pressure on South Carolina’s freshman QB?
Coming into the season, Alabama figured to see Jake Bentley under center for the Gamecocks. He’s out with an injury, and Ryan Hilinski is the replacement. He didn’t face much pressure in his first start last week and was 24 of 30 passing for 282 yards and two touchdowns. Alabama has eight QB hurries with four sacks and will try to ramp up the pressure this week.
2. Will the Alabama running backs have a breakout game?
The Crimson Tide tandem of Najee Harris and Brian Robinson has worked well through two games, but we are waiting to see some explosive runs that have been a big part of the offense in years past from starting running backs. Harris’ longest run is from 19 yards through 24 carries while Robinson’s biggest run is 16 yards on 20 carries.
3. Can Jerry Jeudy keep up his torrid pace?
Alabama’s junior receiver is on pace for another special year. He’s averaging 120 yards per game and has four touchdowns. The UA record for yards in a season is 1,727 (Amari Cooper, 2014) the record for touchdowns is 16 (Cooper, 2014). It’s way too early to start talking records, but Jeudy is the best bet to reach those marks.
4. Who wins the punting battle?
Bryan Edwards averages 14 yards per punt return with a long of 41. Alabama has punted six times with just two returned for a total of three yards. Nick Saban said Monday that the Gamecocks’ return game is the best Alabama will face this season, so this could play a big role in Saturday’s outcome.
— Compiled by Edwin Stanton