The Citadel (4-5) at No. 1 Alabama (10-0)
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa
TV/Radio: SEC Network; FM-93.9, AM-920, AM-1400
The series: First meeting
1. Will Tua play? Sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa left last week’s game against Mississippi State after taking a hit on his knee. Tagovailoa did not return, although coach Nick Saban said he would have returned if needed. Alabama fans immediately called for Tagovailoa to sit out this week’s game against The Citadel in order to be ready to face Auburn on Nov. 24 and Georgia a week later in the SEC Championship. But in his press conference on Monday, Saban insisted the Heisman Trophy favorite will play this week. Saban clearly wants to send a message that this game is just as important as any, so Tagovailoa probably will play, although expect to see a healthy dose of Mac Jones.
2. Dominant defense: After struggling a little early in the season Alabama’s defense hit its stride in recent weeks. The Tide has recorded back-to-back shutouts against Top 25 opponents in beating LSU 29-0 and Mississippi State 24-0. They were the first back-to-back shutouts for Alabama since 49-0 victories over Western Carolina and Auburn in 2012 and the first against two SEC teams since 1980 when Alabama beat Vanderbilt 41-0 and Kentucky 45-0. Alabama has not allowed an offensive score in its last 152 minutes and 18 seconds of play, dating back to a second quarter Tennessee touchdown pass Oct. 20.
3. Running Bulldogs: The Crimson Tide will face a different group of Bulldogs this week in The Citadel. This will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams. After starting the season 1-4, The Citadel has won three of its last four, including a 42-27 victory over Samford last week. The Bulldogs are an option team and are one of the nation’s top rushing teams, averaging 291.9 yards per game on the ground. Quarterback Brandon Rainey ran for 217 yards in last week’s victory over Samford, while top running back Lorenzo Ward ran for four touchdowns in the second half.
4. 10 wins again: Alabama’s 24-0 victory over Mississippi State on Nov. 10 marks the 11th consecutive season the Crimson Tide has reached the 10-win mark. The 11 straight years with 10 wins extends the school record. The previous total for most consecutive 10-win seasons was five, set by coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s teams from 1971-75. In 123 seasons, the Tide has won 10 or more games 38 times, the most in college football history. Alabama has produced 13 10-win seasons since 2002 (2002, 2005, 2008-2018). Bryant had a school record 13 10-win seasons at Alabama while Saban is second with 11.
The Citadel quarterback Brandon Rainey vs. Alabama linebackers
Rainey had a career game with 206 yards rushing last week against Samford. The sophomore is not much of a passing threat, but is effective running the option. Rainey, however, has yet to see a defense with the speed of Alabama. Look for linebackers Mack Wilson and Dylan Moses to have big games as the Tide shuts down the run.
With Tagovailoa somewhat banged up the Tide offense could go a little more conservative against the Bulldogs, so the running game could put up big numbers. Harris leads the team with an average of 6.8 yards per carry and while all of the running backs figure to see plenty of action, Harris should get enough touches to have a big day.
1 – Alabama is tied for first nationally in scoring defense at 12.7 points per game
16 – Number of Tide players to score a touchdown this season
73 – Games Nick Saban has coached at Alabama with the Tide ranked No. 1
104 – Points the Tide has scored off of 19 turnovers this season.
Alabama 56, The Citadel 3
The only question in this one will be whether or not the Tide defense posts a third consecutive shutout. That might not happen, simply because Alabama will likely play so many people, but it still figures to be a blowout. Saban will play his regulars to keep them sharp, but there should be plenty of fresh faces in the second half as the Tide blows out another opponent.