ALABAMA vs. DUKE
When: 2:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta
By Edwin Stanton
Let’s just pencil in Alabama in this slot for the rest of the season. Despite possible disciplinary actions for starters Najee Harris, Brian Robinson and DeVonta Smith, UA still has too much firepower. Duke’s searching for an offensive identity with a new QB in Quentin Harris.
An Alabama linebacker is lost for the season. So what else is new? Dylan Moses’ season-ending ACL injury is a huge loss and Shane Lee and Markail Benton will have to pick up the slack. Duke surrendered 27 points per game last year and not much should change this season.
Will Reichard is the top-rated kicker in the country from the 2019 recruiting class, but until we have proof Alabama’s kicking game will be better this season there is still some doubt. Duke’s AJ Reed, of Prattville, is the new starter for Duke but his 27 consecutive PATs is enough to make UA fans envious.
David Cutcliffe is one of the most respected coaches around and is renowned for his ability to develop top-notch quarterbacks. He’s turned Duke into a quality team still trying to break through in the ACC. Nick Saban enters his 13th season at UA with multiple national titles to show for it and with all the tools available to win another one this year.
Alabama has lost just one time in Atlanta since 2008 (SEC Championship Game) so even though technically there is no ‘home-field advantage’ for this neutral-site game, the Crimson Tide has home-field advantage. Alabama fans will pack Mercedes-Benz Stadium, as they always do, and give the NFL stadium a crimson feel.
Alabama 45, Duke 10
Alabama will have to work out some issues to work out for sure. With the offense UA puts out on the field there is just no way a mediocre Duke team is going to slow down the ‘Ryde Outs’ or running backs, despite the possible first-half absence of a few star players.
Alabama, 52, Duke, 13
Bama looks to rebound from the disappointing loss in the national championship and the first victim on their revenge tour is Duke. The Tide will look to send a message to Clemson against another ACC opponent.
Alabama 42, Duke 10
The Blue Devils will be the first victims of the Crimson Tide revenge tour in 2019. A Duke defense, that finished 77th in total defense a year ago, will be not be able to control Tua and that explosive offense. Alabama will leave Atlanta with a blowout win and hopefully, no more injuries.
Alabama 52, Duke 10
The Blue Devils, like most of Alabama’s 2019 opponents, will have no answer for Alabama’s wide receiver talent. With that on its side, simplicity can get the Tide through September.
Alabama 35, Duke 6
Last year’s Duke team (which had Daniel Jones and a more experienced defense) played Clemson to a 35-6 game so that seems like a likely place to start. More storylines for Alabama than it wanted to have two weeks ago, expecially at linebacker.
Alabama 45, Duke 20
Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian says Tua Tagovailoa has shown “drastic improvement,” and I believe him. But with three spots on the O-line still up for grabs and four of the five players competing for those spots having never started a game at Alabama, I think there could be some growing pains. Nick Saban thinks highly of Duke coach David Cutcliffe, and I expect Duke to generate some big plays on offense.
Alabama 49, Duke 7
Due to this week’s first half suspensions, I expect the Crimson Tide’s offense to air it out early in the first half. With arguable the best wide receiver corps in the country, I don’t think the Duke secondary will be able to keep up and Alabama cruises to a win.
Alabama 48, Duke 13
Tua Tagovailoa is working with his third offensive coordinator in as many years, but don’t expect the Crimson Tide to slow down from last season’s torrid pace. On the other side of the ball, the Alabama defense will physically overpower the Blue Devils at the line of scrimmage.
Alabama 51, Duke 17
Alabama’s revenge tour begins in Atlanta this weekend. Even with the Tide losing several key players to injury, the Blue Devils will still be overmatched on both sides of the ball. Alabama has excelled in openers under Saban, and that won’t change Saturday.
Players to watch
By Carey Reeder
Position: Running back
Key Stat: Rushed for 37 yards on seven attempts in four games last season
Buzz: With the possibility of Alabama running backs Najee Harris and Brian Robinson not playing in the first half for disciplinary reasons, Ford is projected to be the starter in Atlanta. The Florida native made his presence known in the Alabama backfield last season and will look to capitalize on this opportunity early in the season.
Position: Wide Receiver
Key Stat: 2018 SEC Freshman of the Year honoree; 45 catches for 848 yards and seven touchdowns last season
Buzz: Waddle was a standout at wide receiver last season for Alabama as a freshman. However, with more eyes on the Crimson Tide’s other receivers like Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, Waddle will step into a bigger role this season. Saturday’s game against Duke could bring many shots down the field to receivers like Waddle in the first half due to the suspensions announced this week. Waddle will also return punts for Alabama.
Position: Defensive line
Key Stat: A four-star recruit out of Clay-Chalkville High School; ranked as the No. 179 prep player in 2019 ESPN300
Buzz: Dale arrived in Tuscaloosa possessing a big frame, the strength and quickness to disrupt backfields. The true freshman was named the starting nose tackle this week. Dale will be joined by two other true freshmen in the interior of the Crimson Tide’s defense in Christian Harris and Shane Lee. Dale hopes to follow in the footsteps of past NFL-caliber defensive lineman Alabama has produced.
Key Stat: Played in 12 games and started two last season; completed 34 passes for 437 yards and seven touchdowns
Buzz: Harris comes into the 2019 season taking over the reins to the Blue Devil offense from No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft Daniel Jones. Harris showed the ability to get outside of the pocket last year rushing for 195 yards and five touchdowns. A dual-threat quarterback has caused Alabama problems in the past. A young defense in week one for the Crimson Tide could give Harris a chance to make an impact.
Key Stat: 73 tackles, two for a loss and one forced fumble in 10 games of action last season
Buzz: The oldest member of the Duke secondary will have a huge task of slowing down one of the best receiving corps in the country. Singleton is returning from a fractured left ankle that required surgery that ended his 2019 season early. Singleton has played 1,347 career snaps and will be the backbone of experience for the Blue Devil defense.
Position: Wide receiver
Key Stat: Played quarterback in high school; first game as wide receiver
Buzz: There’s no better way to break yourself into a new position and level of football than against the No. 2-ranked team in the country. Calhoun earned the starting receiver spot in spring camp. A rangy, true freshman receiver could cause the Crimson Tide’s secondary problems down the field.