If all goes according to plan in the Mal M. Moore Athletic Facility, there will be five days of calm before a four-hour storm.

The University of Alabama football team is no stranger to highly anticipated matchups, as Saturday’s No. 1 versus No. 2 matchup against LSU will be, and that experience is expected to be useful as it prepares for another one.

“I feel like for games week to week, especially for big games like this, we always preach calm before the storm,” right tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. said. “Only before the game, just focus on what you’re doing in the game plan, prepare for what’s coming and then when the game comes, then you can explode with all the excitement that’s been building up to that point.”

UA coach Nick Saban has collected 83 wins against teams ranked in the Associated Press top 25. The most recent one against Texas A&M on Oct. 12 moved him past former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden for second most in college football history; he is three behind the 86 top 25 wins by former Penn State coach Joe Paterno.

“You guys always ask me what are you going to do different this week because you’re playing the No. 1 team in the country,” Saban said. “Well, every game that we play is an important game, especially when you’re playing in the SEC, especially when you’re playing in the division, and this is most certainly an important game. But if there was a better way to do it, we’d already be doing it.

“I think the big thing you want the players to do is not get involved in the hype surrounding the game, or even think about the implications of the game, but prepare for the game as if this is the best team you’ve played and the player you’re going to play is the best player you’ve played against at his position all year long. And therefore you’re going to need to challenge yourself to play your best and be your best as a football player and stay focused on that.”

LSU loses linebacker

No. 1 LSU will come to Tuscaloosa without a starting linebacker.

The Athletic reported Michael Divinity has left the team for personal reasons, five days after losing defensive lineman Justin Thomas for the rest of the season for his own personal reasons.

Divinity has contributed 23 tackles, four for a loss, three quarterback hurries and a forced fumble to LSU this season. LSU still has competent experience at linebacker without Divinity with juniors Patrick Queen and Jacob Phillips alongside K’Lavon Chaisson. Phillips is the team’s leading tackler while Queen and Chaisson are tied for second on the team with 4 1/2 tackles for a loss. Chaisson is also tied for the team lead with four quarterback hurries.

Jennings closer to honor

UA outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings was named one of 12 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s best linebacker.

Jennings is one of just two SEC players on the list, the other being Georgia’s Tae Crowder. Jennings is tied for 10th in the SEC in tackles for a loss (7 1/2) and tied for ninth in sacks (four), and his five quarterback hurries are second the team behind Terrell Lewis’ 12.

UA has a history with the award. Saban has coached three Crimson Tide players to the award (Rolando McClain 2009, C.J. Mosley 2013 and Reuben Foster 2016) and Derrick Thomas was the third-ever player to win the award, doing so in 1988.

Alfano resurfaces

The Antonio Alfano saga for the University of Alabama football team ended on Oct. 16, when Alfano entered the transfer portal. Alfano has now come out of the portal to the hands of a familiar face.

Colorado coach Mel Tucker, the former Georgia defensive coordinator and UA assistant in 2015, announced Alfano will join the Buffaloes in January. Alfano, a 5-star defensive lineman according to 247 Sports, left Alabama having not played a snap in his freshman season.
Alfano’s absence from the UA program, played out over weeks, was explained by his family as a reaction to his grandmother’s falling ill. Saban said UA made counseling and other measures available to Alfano, but ultimately felt as though Alfano, “basically quit.”

Other notes

Tua Tagovailoa was back on the practice field during the media viewing period today. That and more is in the practice report.

UA also got official word on the kickoff time for the Mississippi State game next week.

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson