By Tommy Deas
Alabama ranks third in the country in scoring offense at 53.8 points per game, and hasn’t played its starters into the fourth quarter yet. Jerry Jeudy is emerging as a force at receiver, and UA has other weapons. The Ragin’ Cajuns average 29 points per game.
This Crimson Tide defense isn’t, as yet, the kind of overwhelming unit UA has fielded in the recent past, but it’s very good. The secondary has come along well and the front seven is formidable. ULL allows more than 34 points per game.
UA’s kicking game has been a mixed bag: explosiveness in the return game but inconsistencies in punting and kicking. Punter Skyler DeLong needs to gain confidence but might not get a lot of chances today. Louisiana-Lafayette has a top kickoff returner in Ja’Marcus Bradley.
The Ragin’ Cajuns hired a top young offensive mind in Billy Napier, who spent five years on the Alabama staff. He’ll need time to get the program rolling. Alabama just keeps rolling along under Nick Saban, who has the Crimson Tide among the nation’s elite again.
Alabama is coming off a victory over its toughest opponent to date, but hasn’t really broken a sweat. Sandwiched between conference games, Louisiana-Lafayette finds itself in a good spot on the Crimson Tide’s schedule but doesn’t have the firepower to mount a challenge.
Alabama 66, Louisiana-Lafayette 3
This may really be Alabama’s best offense ever, although that will have to be proven over the course of a full season. The defense seems to be coming along. Expect the Crimson Tide to strike first, strike hard and show no mercy.
Alabama 63, Louisiana-Lafayette 0
An early kickoff time leads to an explosive first half, which leads to an Alabama shutout. Bama puts it out of reach before lunchtime.
Alabama 52, Louisiana-Lafayette 3
Neither rain, nor sleet, nor the fact that Billy Napier is a Nick Saban protege will stop Tua and Co. from distributing point packages. The Cajuns will play hard but it’s a mismatch.
Alabama 59, Louisiana-Lafayette 7
No reason to expect anything other than a blowout in this one. Make sure you’re in your seat for kickoff at 11 a.m. By 1 p.m., we’ll likely see Alabama’s starters exiting the game.
Alabama 56, Louisiana-Lafayette 0
Alabama will be able to get more players into the game for some experience like head coach Nick Saban hopes for.
Alabama 55, Louisiana-Lafayette 7
The offensive fireworks continue for the top-ranked Crimson Tide, but look for the running backs to have more production this week.
Alabama 52, Louisiana-Lafayette 10
In what will come as a big shock to no one, the Crimson Tide will dominate the Ragin’ Cajuns. Don’t expect Nick Saban to purposefully run up the score on Louisiana-Lafayette coach Billy Napier, however. Napier served on Alabama’s staff a few seasons ago as wide receivers coach.
Alabama 52, Louisiana-Lafayette 0
What you can count on today: Tua Tagovailoa won’t play the whole game, Alabama puts up 50-plus points, and the Crimson Tide defense gets a shutout. The only thing we don’t know is if Jalen Hurts will play and miss his chance to redshirt.
Alabama 56, Louisiana-Lafayette 3
Nick Saban won’t completely shut out former assistant coach Billy Napier, but it sure will be a blowout. The most interesting storyline of this game will really be whether quarterback Jalen Hurts plays. If he does, he can no longer redshirt and that’ll shut people up about him leaving early.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
By Ben Stansell
Markail Benton, Freshman/LB, 6-2/231
Key Stat: Has 10 tackles this season
Buzz: Benton redshirted his first year on campus, but secured a role as a key reserve for the Crimson tide this year. He has provided quality depth for Alabama’s linebacker corps, playing and making at least one tackle in all four games. If Alabama pulls away from Louisiana-Lafayette early Saturday, Benton could make an impact coming off the sideline.
Jaylen Waddle, Freshman/WR, 5-10/177
Key Stat: Averaging 15.75 yards per catch
Buzz: Waddle has breathed life into Alabama’s punt return game this season by showing an ability to turn nothing into something special. Just as he has already established himself as a player Alabama fans love to watch, he has quickly carved out a role for himself in Alabama’s offense, having caught eight passes for 126 yards.
Jalen Hurts, Junior/QB, 6-2/218
Key Stat: Has completed 70.97 percent of his passes
Buzz: Once Tua Tagovailoa secured the starting quarterback position, speculation began about whether Hurts would transfer. While that hasn’t happened, other have surmised that he might redshirt. If Alabama takes a commanding lead Saturday and Hurts plays, he’ll lose the ability to redshirt since he’s played in the maximum four games already. Hurts has thrown for 276 yards and four touchdowns.
Jacques Boudreaux, Junior/LB, 6-1/228
Key Stat: Leads the Ragin Cajuns’ defense with 17 tackles
Buzz: After starting in seven games last season and finishing fifth on the team in tackles (58), Boudreaux has stepped into an even bigger role for Louisiana-Lafayette this season. Not only does he lead the team in tackles, Boudreaux has also made one sack and a pass breakup.
Trey Ragas, Soph./RB, 5-11/227
Key Stat: Averaging 8.4 yards per carry, tops in the Sun Belt
Buzz: A third-team All-Sun Belt player in 2017, Ragas picked up right where he left off this season. Ragas exploded for a career-high 142 yards in Louisiana-Lafayette’s first game against Grambling State. The New Orleans, Louisiana, native has amassed nearly 300 total yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Ragas has reeled in 5 catches for 63 yards as well.
Ryheem Malone, Senior/WR, 5-9/187
Key Stat: Led the Cajuns in average yards per catch (15.36) last season
Buzz: Having sat out the 2016 season after transferring from SMU, Malone had a breakout 2017 campaign. He led Louisiana-Lafayette in receiving yards (676), receiving touchdowns (four) and receptions (44). Even though the speedy wide out hasn’t found the end zone yet this year, he is a big play threat every time he touches the ball.