Alabama football vs. Austin Peay: Our score prediction, scouting report

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

This game between Alabama football and Austin Peay should not be close.

The Governors aren't even ranked among FCS teams. Sure, the Crimson Tide is not playing to the level many Nick Saban teams have, but even in a down year, Alabama should win and win big against its annual pre-Iron Bowl cupcake game.

So, the actual game outcome does not figure to be terribly compelling. Still, there are interesting elements surrounding the game, as well as some things for which to watch.

Here's what you need to know about Austin Peay and for what to watch on Saturday when No. 8 Alabama (8-2, 5-2 SEC) faces the Governors (7-3, 3-2 ASUN) on Saturday (11 a.m., SEC Network+) at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Austin Peay in FCS playoff contention

While Alabama still has one game left in the regular season after this week, Saturday will mark the last regular season game of the season for Austin Peay.

After this game, the Governors will be hoping to get into the 24-team playoff. Of those 24 teams, 11 are automatic bids and 13 are at-large bids. The Governors will need some help, though. The winner of the ASUN Conference shares an automatic bid with the WAC Conference. That muddies the water even more.

The Alabama game won't really matter in the grand scheme of Austin Peay making the playoff, but the uncertain playoff fate is sure to be on the minds of Governor players.

Austin Peay isn't even in the FCS top 25 coaches poll, though. The Governors received 43 votes in the most recent poll.

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A young coach

Austin Peay coach Scotty Walden talks with his offense as it prepares to go out on the field for a possession against Jacksonville State Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022 at Fortera Stadium in Clarksville, Tennessee.

When he was hired to coach Austin Peay in 2020, Scotty Walden became the youngest head coach in Division I football. He was only 30 then. Walden just turned 33 this week.

He's gone 17-10 over his time with the Governors. Before then, he was the interim coach at Southern Miss. Prior to moving to Hattiesburg where he became an assistant in 2017, Walden was the youngest NCAA head coach at East Texas Baptist in 2016.

Overall team outlook

Austin Peay's defense is just slightly better than its offense.

The Governors' defense is No. 10 overall among FCS teams in total defense, allowing 299.3 yards per game. Austin Peay ranks No. 13 overall in total offense for FCS teams, averaging 450.2 yards per game.

Quarterback Mike DiLiello is in the top third of FCS passers with 2,300 passing yards. He ranks No. 32 overall. This season he has thrown for 21 touchdowns with nine interceptions over 10 games.

What to watch from Alabama

The Crimson Tide figures to have an opportunity to get several starters out of the game once it creates a sizeable lead early. This will provide a chance for Alabama to get more looks at some players for the future.

At the top of the list is quarterback. With Bryce Young likely to declare early for the NFL Draft after this season, Alabama will need a new signal caller for 2023. Young's current backups, Jalen Milroe and Ty Simpson, could end up being the next quarterback. There's always a chance Alabama could look to see who is in the transfer portal as well. Either way, Saturday's game will provide Milroe and Simpson the chance to give the coaching staff more game tape to evaluate.

Other young players will be worth watching, too. Particularly in the secondary, where Alabama could lose multiple players to the NFL Draft. Inside linebacker will be another spot to examine.

Score prediction

Alabama 55, Austin Peay 0: It's quite possible the Crimson Tide tallies another shutout in this game. The starters shouldn't have much trouble with the Governors, and then the focus officially shifts to the Iron Bowl.