Alabama fans don’t have to check their calendar. They know what day Saturday is.
“Tennessee is always a game that’s a big rivalry game,” coach Nick Saban said. “It means a lot to a lot of people in Alabama. Certainly, it means a lot to us; it means a lot to me.
“Jeremy (Pruitt, the former Alabama assistant and current Vol head coach) has done a really, really good job,” Saban continued. “Their team to me is emerging. … They’re playing with great discipline, toughness, all the players are really playing hard.”
Alabama has won the past 12 meetings with its rivals to the north. But the Tide head coach cautions all to be wary of presuming victory.
“I think all you have to do is look at the South Carolina-Georgia game (a 20-17 double overtime Gamecocks victory) and figure out that if you don’t play well every week, if you play poorly and the other team plays well against you … anybody can beat anybody.”
No. 11 Auburn (5-1 overall and 2-1 SEC) had a bye last week, but the Tigers weren’t taking it easy. Not with leading rusher Boobee Whitlow injured and out for at least a month.
Gus Malzahn has had to decide how his team will adapt to Whitlow’s absence. Freshman D.J. Williams could find himself in the mix.
“He’s gonna get an opportunity to touch the ball,” Malzahn said. “I think he’s earned that. He’s healthy now. But you’ll also see the other guys we’re taking with us with the ball, too.”
The coach said explosive plays need to return for his Tigers.
“Whether it’s in the running game or the passing game, we have to create explosive plays,” he said. “When we do that, we’re a good offense. When we don’t, we’re average.”
It’s homecoming at UAB and the Blazers are again playing for the names on the backs of their jerseys. When they square off against Old Dominion at 3 p.m. Saturday, they’ll be displaying the names of children with serious illnesses who are supported through Children’s Harbor, a nonprofit with a campus on Lake Martin.
“Going back to that summer of 2017 going into ‘The Return,’ we wanted to do something special with Children’s Harbor,” coach Bill Clark said. “We have been involved with Children’s Hospital and seeing patients there, but we wanted to get involved with Children’s Harbor and the great work they do, not only in Birmingham, but also at the lake; what they did for the patients, the kids and the families, and what a great group of folks that they were.”
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In other college action:
Southeast Missouri at Jacksonville State: Speaking of homecoming, the Gamecocks are celebrating as they face the Redhawks at 3 p.m. on Saturday. JSU (5-2 overall and 2-1 in the Ohio Valley Conference) is No. 14 in the FCS Coaches Poll and No. 16 in the STATS FCS Top 25.
Berry at Birmingham-Southern: The Panthers (3-2 overall, 2-1 in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference) have scored at least 45 points in each of their wins. They’ve averaged 19 points in their two losses. Kickoff for the BSC homecoming Saturday is at 6 p.m.
West Alabama at Delta State: The Tigers are 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the Gulf South Conference. They travel to Cleveland, Mississippi, for a game at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Huntingdon at Brevard: The Hawks are undefeated (2-0) in the USA South Athletic Conference. Kickoff Saturday is at noon Central in North Carolina.
Central State at Tuskegee: A Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association title is still in reach for the Golden Tigers, who kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday. Tuskegee (2-4) is 2-1 in the league.
Miles at Edward Waters: The defending SIAC champions are 5-1 overall and 3-0 in their league. Kickoff in Jacksonville, Florida, is 5 p.m. Central on Saturday.
Charleston Southern at North Alabama: Kickoff Saturday is at 6 p.m. The Lions are 2-4 overall and 0-1 in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
East Tennessee State University at Samford: The Bulldogs (3-4) are 2-2 in the Southern Conference. Getting above .500 in the league is the aim at noon on Saturday.
Class 7A: Thompson is No. 1 in the latest Alabama Sports Writers Association poll and Mountain Brook is No. 5. Each brings a 7-0 mark into their Friday meeting in Alabaster.
— Scott Griffin (@griffsz) October 17, 2019
Class 6A: No. 2 Muscle Shoals (8-0) welcomes Athens (6-2).
Class 5A: No. 2 Ramsay (7-1) travels to Briarwood Christian (6-1).
Class 4A: Danville (5-3) heads to St. John Paul II Catholic in Huntsville (5-2).
Class 3A: No. 8 Susan Moore (8-0) hosts Geraldine (5-2).
Class 2A: No. 4 Leroy (6-1) greets J.U. Blacksher (7-1).
Class 1A: No. 5 Spring Garden (6-1) ventures to Appalachian (6-2).
AISA: No. 1 Wilcox Academy hosts No. 5 Crenshaw Christian.