Football preview: Auburn hosts Georgia at Jordan-Hare; Alabama travels to Mississippi State; UAB finally home again vs. UTEP

Football preview: Auburn hosts Georgia at Jordan-Hare; Alabama travels to Mississippi State; UAB finally home again vs. UTEP
Auburn's Christian Tutt (6) makes an interception to end the Tigers' game against Ole Miss, racing defensive coordinator Kevin Steele down the sideline. Auburn will need its best game when it welcomes the No. 4 Georgia Bulldogs to Jordan-Hare Stadium this week. (Todd Van Ernst/Auburn University Athletics)

The eyes of the nation – especially those in Tuscaloosa – will be on Auburn this weekend.

Alabama’s chances of making the College Football Playoff could hinge on what happens at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS from the Plains as CFP No. 4 Georgia visits CFP No. 12 Auburn.

A Tigers’ victory in the Deep South’s oldest rivalry could set the Tide up to potentially notch a Top 10 win, which could buoy Alabama in the season-ending discussion of which teams make it into the final four.

Coach Gus Malzahn noted the challenge his Tigers face this week.

“We’re playing one of the more talented teams in the entire country, maybe the most talented,” he said of the Bulldogs. “They’re impressive to watch on film.”

Leading Auburn rusher JaTarvious “Boobee” Whitlow could be back in the lineup after having been slowed by injury. In his stead, freshman D.J. Williams ran for 130 yards against LSU and 93 against Ole Miss.

Alabama’s Najee Harris and Tua Tagovailoa will be a big part of the strong finish to the season that the Tide hopes to begin in Starkville this weekend against Mississippi State. (University of Alabama Athletics)

Alabama’s heightened interest in the Georgia-Auburn game is due to the Crimson Tide’s 46-41 loss to LSU.

“Bottom line is, especially in the first half, we didn’t play very well,” coach Nick Saban said after the game. “We don’t want to waste a failure. There’s a lot of lessons to be learned from the things that we did and didn’t do today. I think that everyone needs to make the commitment to finish the season the right way.”

The loss leaves the Tide in an uncomfortable position, falling to fifth in the College Football Playoff ranking, behind LSU, Ohio State, Clemson and Georgia.

“We don’t fully have control of our own destiny,” Saban said, “but if we finish the season the right way, we can see where it takes us. We’ve been in this situation before, so I think the big thing is everyone needs to learn from the mistakes they made today and try to get better.”

The next step for the Tide finishing its season comes Saturday at 11 a.m. at Mississippi State on ESPN.

UAB was soundly beaten 37-2 last week at Southern Miss, which yielded a tough day on Monday.

“This is not a fun way to start your day,” coach Bill Clark said at his weekly press conference. “We did good, bad and ugly this morning with our players to get this game behind us and put it to rest. The challenge for us is we have to get better. I’ve got to put us in a position to get better and do the things we can do.”

The defending Conference USA champions fell into a tie for third with UTSA, each at 3-2 in the league. Louisiana Tech is first at 5-0 and Southern Miss second at 4-1.

The Blazers are returning to Legion Field for the first time in a month, hosting UTEP on Saturday at noon on ESPN3. UAB (6-3, 3-2 in Conference USA) looks to extend the nation’s fourth-longest active home winning streak to 17 straight, trailing only Clemson (21), UCF (20) and Ohio State (19).

In other college action:

Alabama A&M at Alcorn State: The Bulldogs went into their game last week knowing they needed to win and that they needed help in the conference race. Both happened as they knocked off visiting Jackson State 48-43 and Alcorn fell 19-16 to Grambling State in overtime. That means A&M’s 2 p.m. visit to Spinks-Casem Stadium Saturday will be a virtual championship in the Southwestern Athletic Conference East Division. The Braves are 4-1 in the league, the Bulldogs 4-2 and each has one league game left, with Saturday’s victor needing that game to assure a berth in the SWAC Championship Game on Dec. 7.

Miles at Albany State: The Golden Bears’ 20-6 victory last week over Tuskegee puts them in position to defend the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship they won last year. Kickoff is 1 p.m. Central on Saturday on ESPN3.

Coach Ruffin talks before Miles’ return to SIAC title game from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Huntingdon at LaGrange: Last week’s loss ended Huntingdon’s goal of an unbeaten conference record, but the Hawks still have a shot at the USA South title. With Averett’s 10-9 loss to Brevard, Huntingdon remains in first place in the USA South with a 5-1 conference record. Three teams (Averett, Brevard and North Carolina Wesleyan) are tied for second with 4-2 conference records. With one conference game remaining at LaGrange, the Hawks control their future and can clinch the conference title with a win at noon Central on Saturday.

Alabama A&M remains in the hunt for the Southwestern Athletic Conference East Division title going into Saturday’s game with Alcorn State. (Alabama A&M Athletics)

Millsaps at Birmingham-Southern: A conference championship is no longer in the cards for the Panthers after their 20-10 loss to Trinity in Texas. Saturday at 1 p.m., they’ll look to close out the season on Senior Day.

Louisiana at South Alabama: The Jaguars are 1-8 overall and 0-5 in the Sun Belt Conference. Kickoff is at 4 p.m. Saturday on ESPN+.

Troy at Texas State: The Trojans (4-5 overall and 2-3 in the Atlantic Sun Conference) are coming off a 49-28 victory over Georgia Southern. Kickoff Saturday is at 2 p.m. at Bobcat Stadium.

West Alabama at West Florida: The Tigers (6-4 overall, 3-4 in the Gulf South Conference) have won their past two games. A three-game win streak will be in their sights at 4 p.m. Central on Saturday.

North Alabama at Gardner-Webb: The Lions (3-7) close out their 2019 season on the road Saturday in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, against the Runnin’ Bulldogs. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. Central. In UNA’s first season with a full FCS schedule, Gardner-Webb will be the seventh school the Lions are playing for the first time, joining Western Illinois, Montana, Presbyterian, Charleston Southern, Kennesaw State and Monmouth.

Samford at Western Carolina: The Bulldogs (6-4, 3-4) kick off at 1 p.m. Central on ESPN+.

Alabama State at Florida State: The Hornets (5-4 overall, 4-2 SWAC) face the Atlantic Coast Conference member at 11 a.m. Saturday in Tallahassee, Florida.

Eastern Kentucky at Jacksonville State: The Gamecocks are coming off two straight losses. JSU (6-5, 3-4 Ohio Valley Conference) kicks off at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Season over: Tuskegee.

HIGH SCHOOLS 

Class 7A: Hoover (9-2) was ranked No. 5 in the final Alabama Sports Writers Association poll and James Clemens (9-2) was No. 4. Their meeting Friday at Madison City Stadium should be a good one.

Class 6A: No. 6 Hueytown (10-1) hosts Eufaula (9-2).

Class 5A: No. 8 Faith Academy (11-0) heads to No. 3 Pleasant Grove (10-1).

Class 4A: No. 7 Lincoln (9-2) travels to No. 6 Andalusia (8-3).

Class 3A: No. 8 Susan Moore (11-0) plays at No. 6 Walter Wellborn (11-1) in Anniston.

Class 2A: No. 2 Ohatchee (10-0) entertains No. 3 Collinsville (10-1).

Class 1A: No. 4 Sweet Water (9-1) hosts 9 Maplesville (8-2).

AISA: No. 10 Glenwood School and No. 7 Tuscaloosa Academy went to overtime when they met in the regular season. The Gators visit the Knights in the playoff semifinals.

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