TideSports College Football Preview

Game 1 | Duke

Date: Aug. 31
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta
When: 2:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Alabama won 62-13 in 2010; Mark Ingram rushed for 161 yards and two touchdowns; Julio Jones had five receptions for 105 yards and one touchdown.
Series: Alabama leads 3-1

You need to know: Too bad this game wasn’t on the schedule last season because Alabama could have faced Daniel Jones, the Duke quarterback taken sixth overall in this past spring’s NFL Draft. There are other big losses on offense the Blue Devils will have to replace but none bigger than Jones. David Cutcliffe, who enters his 12th season at the helm, and is one of the better developers of quarterbacks around and should have Quentin Harris game-ready by Aug. 31. Duke will be one of the better pass defenses in the ACC, led by cornerback Mark Gilbert, who snagged seven interceptions in 2018.

Keep an eye on: Deon Jackson can run, catch and dazzle. He led Duke with 847 rushing yards last season with seven touchdowns and also caught 26 passes for 253 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The preseason ACC all-purpose player averaged 5 yards per carry and was also quite proficient on kickoff returns.

Outlook: This hasn’t been billed as a must-see game for obvious reasons. Alabama has played Florida State, Southern Cal, Michigan and Wisconsin in past season openers with much more fanfare and buzz. Both teams are searching for an identity to start the season, but Alabama has the clear edge with offensive weapons and defensive strength and won’t suffer as much with making mistakes that normally occur in an opener.

Game 2 | New Mexico State

Date: Sept. 7
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa
When: 3 p.m.
TV: SEC Network
Series: First meeting

You need to know: The Aggies have played in four bowl games in its history and just one (Arizona Bowl win in 2017) since 1960. New Mexico State followed up its bowl win season with a dismal 3-9 record.

Keep an eye on: The Aggies want to get the ball into the hands of Jason Huntley. He ran for 505 yards and seven scores, caught 47 passes for 529 yards and three touchdown last season. He also returned three kickoffs for touchdowns. The senior has five in his career.

Outlook: The Aggies have a tough road ahead, facing Washington State in the opener before getting Alabama and then San Diego State. New Mexico State will accept a nice paycheck to come to Tuscaloosa but there won’t be any other highlight on this trip.

Game 3 | South Carolina

Date: Sept. 14
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, S.C.
When: 2:30 p.m.
Last meeting: South Carolina toppled No. 1 Alabama 35-21. Stephen Garcia threw three touchdown passes and Marcus Lattimore scored three times and rushed for 93 yards for South Carolina. Greg McElroy had 315 passing yards and Alabama was held to 36 rushing yards.
Series: Alabama leads 12-3

You need to know: South Carolina is coming off a 7-6 season with Will Muschamp going into his fourth season in Columbia. Not many are expecting the Gamecocks to finish higher the fourth in the SEC East. However, the Gamecocks do return a solid defensive front as well as an experienced group of linebackers and secondary personnel.

Keep an eye on: Senior Jake Bentley has started for South Carolina at quarterback since the midway mark of his freshman season. He ranks second in school history in completion percentage (62.8), third in pass completions (610) and passing touchdowns (54), fourth in passing yards (7,385), pass attempts (972), and touchdowns responsible for (62) and is on target to top some of those marks this season.

Outlook: This game is early enough in the season to where Alabama could be caught off guard. Throw in the fact it’s being played in Columbia, and this has the recipe for disaster. It’s a shame this isn’t a night game, which would have given this matchup an extra element of hype.

Game 4 | Southern Miss

Date: Sept. 21
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa
When: TBD
Last meeting: Alabama quarterback Blake Sims threw two touchdowns, rushed for a score in a 52-12 win. The Crimson Tide ran for 333 yards and the defense held the Eagles to four field goals.
Series: Alabama leads 36-5-2

You need to know: Alabama is the second SEC opponent on the schedule for Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles take on Mississippi State in Week 2. They have 32 wins vs. the SEC with 106 losses. Southern Miss finished 6-5 last year and were never really consistent from week to week.

Keep an eye on: Junior receiver Quez Watkins, from Athens, Alabama, is a first-team All-Conference USA player who had 72 receptions for 889 yards and nine touchdowns. He led the league with 6.5 catches per game. At 6-2, 190, Watkins will be a test for Alabama’s secondary.

Outlook: Southern Miss is predicted to finish near the top of the Conference USA standings and fourth-year coach Jay Hopson has the team heading in the right direction. The Golden Eagles have historically played tough against Alabama and there is no reason to think that won’t be the case for this one. There is just too many weapons for Alabama and not enough for Southern Miss.

Game 5 | Ole Miss

Date: Sept. 28
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa
When: TBD
Last meeting: Ole Miss punched Alabama in the mouth with a 75-yard touchdown on the game’s first play, but the Crimson Tide scored the next 62 points for the rout. Tua Tagovailoa threw for 191 yards and two touchdowns in just two quarters of action while UA had 516 total yards.
Series: Alabama leads 54-10

You need to know: Despite being completive down the stretch Ole Miss lost its last five games of 2018 and enters this season still working things out under second-year coach Matt Luke.

Keep an eye on: The Rebels and Luke believe in freshman Matt Corral, who played in four games last season and was redshirted. He is mobile and can tuck the ball and run when he has to, which should make Alabama cautious.

Outlook: The schedule works out to where the Rebels could be in good shape when they come to Tuscaloosa. The problem the Rebels have is how they match up with Alabama. Ole Miss has switched to a 3-4 defense to help with the pass rush, something Luke talked about at SEC Media Days. That should be a big help, but the Ole Miss offense has to find a way to score more than the 33 points per game they had last year.

Game 6 | Texas A&M

Date: Oct. 12
Where: Kyle Field, College Station, Texas
When: TBD
Last meeting: Tua Tagovailoa hit DeVonta Smith on Alabama’s first play and the Crimson Tide won 45-23 for its sixth straight win against the Aggies. Tagovailoa had four touchdown passes and 387 yards.
Series: Alabama leads 9-2

You need to know: Expectations are high in College Station under second-year coach Jimbo Fisher, despite being picked to finish the SEC West fourth by the media. The Aggies finished 9-4 last season (5-3 SEC) and averaged 470 yards and 36 points per game. They return their leading running back, quarterback and the bulk of their receivers.

Keep an eye on: Fisher has a reputation for developing quarterbacks and he’s doing just that with Kellen Mond, who passed for 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns last year as a junior. After a year under Fisher and with familiar personnel at receiver, Mond should have another big year.

Outlook: Before the Aggies meet the Crimson Tide it has big games against Clemson and Auburn. A lot will determine where TAMU is at as a football team based off those performances. With the game in College Station, Alabama has to be aware of the 12th Man and tune out the crowd.

Game 7 | Tennessee

Date: Oct. 19
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa
When: TBD
Last meeting: Tennessee was on Cloud 9 entering the game after knocking off Auburn the week prior. It was short lived as Alabama scored 28 first-quarter points on its way to a 58-21 trouncing and its 12th straight win against the Vols. Alabama has not lost to Tennessee under Nick Saban.
Series: Alabama leads 56-37

You need to know: In Jeremy Pruitt’s first season as coach the Vols won two SEC games, a big improvement from the 0-8 mark a year before. Still, the Vols were next to last in the league in total offense and 12th in total defense.

Keep an eye on: Running back Ty Chandler could sneak under Alabama’s radar. The 5-10 junior rushed for 630 yards last season and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, which gives UT another element in its offensive arsenal.

Outlook: Since Saban took over at UA the Crimson Tide has outscored Tennessee 454-147 (37.8 per game to 12.3). The number shows no sign of shrinking. Tennessee is picked to finish fifth in the SEC East, an improvement from its last-place finish in 2018.

Game 8 | Arkansas

Date: Oct. 26
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa
When: TBD
Last meeting: Irv Smith Jr. scored a touchdown on the games’ first play, a 76-yard reception, and the Crimson Tide never looked back in a 65-31 rout. It was the most points scored by Alabama in 2018. Alabama totaled 639 yards.
Series: Alabama leads 22-7

You need to know: Arkansas was abysmal last season, finishing last in the league in team offense and 13th in team defense. The Razorbacks were winless in the SEC in 2018 under Chad Morris, who enters his second season as head coach. The big issue is at quarterback and whether junior transfers Ben Hicks or Nick Starkel will get the starting nod.

Keep an eye on: At 6-5, 205, freshman receiver Trey Knox has folks buzzing in Fayetteville. He showed off his abilities and speed during the Hogs’ spring game with a 45-yard touchdown run. The four-star recruit could be a difference-maker on an offense looking for any kind of success.

Outlook: Just like with Tennessee, Nick Saban hasn’t lost to Arkansas since he’s been Alabama’s head coach and the margin of victory seems to be getting more lopsided. Morris is trying to build something in Fayetteville, but beating Alabama is not in the foreseeable future.

Game 9 | LSU

Date: Nov. 9
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa
When: TBD
Last meeting: Lots of hype surrounded this night game in Baton Rouge, but No. 1 Alabama shut out No. 4 LSU 29-0 behind a punishing defense that allowed just 196 total yards. Alabama ran for 281 yards while Tua Tagovailoa passed for 295 and two touchdowns.
Series: Alabama leads 53-25-5

You need to know: LSU wants to spread the ball more this season and hired Joe Brady from the New Orleans Saints to come in as the passing game coordinator. He will work with offensive coordinator Steve Emsminger to try and get LSU more proficient with an RPO (run-pass option) style of offense.

Keep an eye on: Head coach Ed Orgeron called LSU safety Grant Delpit the best player in the country. The 6-3, 203-pound junior had 74 tackles with five sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss, and nine pass break-ups last season. He will clearly be a first-round NFL Draft pick in the spring and can help the Tigers’ secondary be one of the best in the nation.

Outlook: LSU was a play or two away from being a 12-1 team last season, including the seven-overtime game against Texas A&M. It’s going to take more than one or two plays to knock off Alabama in Tuscaloosa. LSU has three tough games before the matchup with Alabama — Florida, Mississippi State and then Auburn.

Game 10 | Mississippi State

Date: Nov. 19
Where: Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field, Starkville, Mississippi
When: TBD
Last meeting: Mississippi State held Alabama to its lowest point total of the regular season but the Crimson Tide got the 24-0 shutout win in a game where both offenses struggled to break loose. Alabama had just over 300 total yards of total offense.
Series: Alabama leads 83-17-3

You need to know: Joe Moorhead’s first season at the helm was a success with the Bulldogs finishing tops in the SEC in team defense. There were hiccups along the way in an 8-5 record and a fourth-place finish in the SEC West. Moorhead, a former quarterback from Pittsburgh Central Catholic High School, where Dan Marino and Marc Bulger also played, has some quarterback concerns with the Bulldogs with the loss of Nick Fitzgerald.

Keep an eye on: Running back Kylin Hill ran for almost 400 yards as a freshman and 734 yards and four touchdowns and had almost 200 receiving yards with four TDs last year. He’ll get more touches this season and will be relied on heavily while the Bulldogs’ graduate transfer quarterback Tommy Stevens gets settled into the offense.

Outlook: The Bulldogs are picked to finish fifth in the SEC West but has proven to be a tough matchup for the Crimson Tide, particularly in Starkville. Alabama tends to struggle in the first half against MSU in Starkville before pulling away, just like the 2017 game, which the Crimson Tide trailed in the fourth quarter.

Game 11 | Western Carolina

Date: Nov. 23
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa
When: TBD
Last meeting: Alabama took down the Catamounts 48-14 in 201 WCU was the first team that season to score an opening-drive touchdown against the Tide for an early 7-0 lead.
Series: Alabama leads 4-0

You need to know: The Catamounts were the first opponent for Nick Saban at Alabama in 2007. Alabama has allowed just 19 total points in the four previous meetings with Western Carolina, including 14 in their last meeting in 2014. WCU got off to a 3-0 start in 2018 but lost the remaining eight for a losing season and a 1-7 finish in the Southern Conference.

Keep an eye on: Tyrie Adams did it all for Western Carolina last year, passing for 2,417 yards with 16 touchdowns and rushing for 1,006 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has 9,389 yards of total offense in three seasons and is a preseason Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Year and is a first-team All-Southern Conference selection.

Outlook: The Catamounts can expect more of the same from the previous four meetings. Alabama shouldn’t have any issues with a team that is not expected to contend for a Southern Conference title.

Game  12 | Auburn

Date: Nov. 30
Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn
When: TBD
Last meeting: Alabama held a slim 17-14 halftime lead but went to work in the second half to score 35 points to take a 52-21 win. Tua Tagovailoa tossed five touchdown passes, including two to Henry Ruggs III.
Series: Alabama leads 46-36-1

You need to know: Auburn finished 8-5 last season (fifth in the SEC West) and has a few issues to work out on offense. The Tigers named true freshman Bo Nix as the starter for the season opener.

Keep an eye on: Sophomore JaTarvious Whitlow had a nice debut for the Tigers last year, running for 787 yards and eight touchdowns. He also had 173 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Outlook: Auburn will be better in 2019 despite being picked fourth in the SEC West. At SEC Media Days Malzahn had nothing but praise for the defensive line, which could be among the best in the country. The offensive line is solid, which is good news for a freshman trying to settle in at quarterback. Jordan-Hare is a tough place to play and if Auburn can get past a brutal schedule and be in the SEC hunt when Alabama comes to town then Alabama could be in for a dogfight.