Football preview: Alabama begins SEC play at South Carolina, Auburn hosts Kent State

Football preview: Alabama begins SEC play at South Carolina, Auburn hosts Kent State
Alabama's Henry Ruggs III runs for the end zone in last week's matchup with New Mexico State. This week the Tide faces its first SEC opponent of the 2019 season, the South Carolina Gamecocks. (Austin Bigoney/University of Alabama Athletics)

Give Nick Saban credit for the best response of the week as his Crimson Tide prepares for its visit to Columbia, South Carolina, to face the Gamecocks Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on CBS.

The coach was asked if he has used his team’s last visit to Williams-Brice Stadium – a 35-21 loss in 2010 – to motivate his AP No. 2 squad.

Auburn’s Nick Coe and Marlon Davidson sack Tulane quarterback Amare Jones during last week’s game. Coach Gus Malzahn says his goal is for his players to improve each week no matter who their opponents are. This week brings Kent State to the Plains. (Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics)

“Most of our guys were in grade school when that happened,” the coach said, adding that he doubted that his players would be motivated about a game they didn’t recall. “What I remember from it is we got the lining kicked out of our britches. That means you get your butt kicked so bad you got no seam in the back of your pants. Yeah, I remember that.

“But I know this is a tough place to play and we’ve got a lot of respect for the team that we’re playing,” Saban said. “I think that the players on our team need to have the proper respect in terms of what they need to do to prepare to play a good team like this.”

Gus Malzahn said it didn’t matter that his Auburn Tigers are hosting Kent State at 6 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2.

“Our team understands we need to improve each week,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing this week. They know we need to improve. If we’re a mature football team like I think we are, we’ll go out and compete and improve.”

In other college action:

Alabama A&M at North Alabama: For the first time since 1996, the Bulldogs are traveling nearly 80 miles west to visit the Lions. The game kicks off at 6:05 p.m. Saturday. The UNA-A&M rivalry was renewed in 2018 with North Alabama’s move to Division I and the Football Championship Subdivision. Prior to that, the two schools had not played since 1997. This will be the 24th all-time meeting between the Lions and Bulldogs in a series that began in 1975. UNA holds a decisive 19-3-1 advantage in the 23 previous meetings and has won the past nine contests between the two schools.

Huntingdon at Birmingham-Southern: Speaking of in-state rivals, the Hawks and Panthers square off at 6 p.m. Saturday for the Wesley Cup, the trophy that annually goes to the winner of this rivalry. Huntingdon is 1-0 this season, BSC 0-1.

Kennesaw State at Alabama State: After outlasting Tuskegee 38-31 in the Labor Day Classic, the Hornets (1-1) welcome the Owls at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Jacksonville State Univesity’s Zerrick Cooper was offensive player of the week in the Ohio Valley Conference. (Jacksonville State University Athletics)

Samford at Wofford: The last time the Bulldogs played, they lost by one in double overtime to fall to 0-2. They’ll try to notch 2019 win No. 1 Saturday as they visit the No. 21 Terriers at 5 p.m. Central.

Morehouse at Miles: The Golden Bears, the defending Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champions, host the Maroon Tigers in the Prince Hall Americanism Football Classic at 6 p.m. Saturday at Sloan-Alumni Stadium.

Eastern Washington at Jacksonville State: Quarterback Zerrick Cooper was named the offensive player of the week in the Ohio Valley Conference. His Gamecocks – No. 16 in one FCS ranking and No. 17 in the other – kick off against the Eagles on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Memphis at South Alabama: The Tigers visit the Jaguars on Extra Mile for Teachers Day. The home team looks to improve on its 1-1 start with kickoff at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Southern Miss at Troy: The Trojans notched a 29-point victory in the first game of the Chip Lindsey coaching era. Kickoff Saturday is at 5 p.m.

Tuskegee at Kentucky State: The Golden Tigers open their SIAC schedule at 3 p.m. Saturday. They lost 38-31 last week at Alabama State.

West Alabama at Tusculum: The visiting Tigers (1-0) climbed four spots to No. 20 in this week’s American Football Coaches Association Division II Top 25 poll following a 35-18 victory over Limestone College. Kickoff is 5 p.m. Saturday in Greeneville, Tenn.

Off this weekend: UAB.

HIGH SCHOOLS

Class 7A: Hoover (1-1) fell from No. 1 to No. 4 in the latest Alabama Sports Writers Association poll, thanks to a 48-30 loss last week to new No. 1 Thompson. Can the Bucs avoid losses in back to back in-state games when they host No. 5 Hewitt-Trussville (3-0) on Friday? Hoover lost three straight to in-state foes in 2007 – via forfeit for violating Alabama High School Athletic Association rules.

Class 6A: Bo Nix is quarterbacking on the Plains, not at Pinson Valley this year. But the two-time defending state champs remain one of the top teams in the state. No. 2 Pinson Valley heads to No. 4 Clay-Chalkville Friday for a key game in Region 6.

Class 5A: No. 3 Ramsay (2-1) welcomes No. 6 Pleasant Grove (3-0) on Friday, with the winner likely to win Region 4.

Class 4A: No. 2 Hokes Bluff heads to Oneonta Friday for a major matchup in Region 6.

Class 3A: It will seem like old times Friday as No. 4 Randolph County travels to No. 2 Piedmont in Region 6. These teams met in the state semifinals the past two years with the winner going to the 3A title game. In that span, Piedmont scored 122 points and Randolph County 109. Piedmont leads the recent series 3-1 with one game going into double OT.

Class 2A: No. 1 Fyffe puts its 17-game winning streak – seven of those by shutout – on the line Friday as it hosts No. 6 Collinsville (3-0) in Region 8.

Class 1A: No. 4 Brantley hosts Florala in Region 2 Friday in a game that could challenge the scoreboard to keep up. Brantley is averaging 57 points a game while Florala averages 28.7.

AISA: No. 1 Glenwood Academy hosts No. 10 Bessemer Academy Friday.

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