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No. 1 Alabama vs. The Citadel: Game outlook, where to watch, listen

November 17, 2018

Pregame analysis of Alabama’s game against The Citadel:

The game

What: The Citadel Bulldogs (4-5) at Alabama Crimson Tide (10-0)

When: Saturday, 11 a.m. Central time

Rankings: Alabama is No. 1 in the Associated Press, coaches and College Football Playoff rankings, while The Citadel is unranked in both major FCS polls.

Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa

Line: Alabama by 60½

TV/radio: TV: SEC Network; radio: WHMA-FM 95.5 (Anniston), SiriusXM 191 (Streaming 961)

Four-down territory

1. Friendly network: A member of the Southern Conference, The Citadel will make its first appearance on the Southeastern Conference’s home TV network since Nov. 21, 2015. On that day, the Bulldogs handed host South Carolina a 23-22 loss inside Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C.

2. Dynamic duo: Working out of a triple-option offense, The Citadel’s backfield of sophomore quarterback Brandon Rainey and junior tailback Lorenzo Ward and freshman Clay Harris combined for 305 of the Bulldogs’ 355 rushing yards in last Saturday’s 42-27 win over Samford. Led by Rainey’s SoCon-best 217 rushing yards in just his second career start at quarterback, The Citadel also saw a career-best four touchdowns scored by Ward.

3. Touting Tua: Despite what appears to be a still-injured right knee (regardless of what Alabama head coach Nick Saban says), sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa remains the overwhelming favorite to win this year’s Heisman Trophy, even with some less-than-impressive showings the last two games. Still, Tagovailoa remains the nation’s No. 2 rated passer, and perhaps his greatest statistical anomaly is his third-down rating of 238.3, completing 29 of 39 passes (74.3 percent) for 515 yards and eight touchdowns on third downs alone this season.

4. Q coming for you: Just as Tagovailoa is Alabama’s sophomore sensation on offense, defensive tackle Quinnen Williams is having the same sort of impact as a first-time starter this season on defense. Along with his rapid ascension up NFL draft boards this season, Williams has been a beast at nose guard, ranking third on the team but first among defensive linemen with 49 tackles. Over the past four games, Williams has been practically unblockable, accumulating 27 of his 49 total tackles, including 19 solo, 8½ tackles for loss and 4½ of his five sacks on the season.

Key matchup

Alabama quarterback Mac Jones vs. The Citadel defense: With backup quarterback Jalen Hurts still severely limited with his surgically repaired right ankle and Tagovailoa still dealing with a lingering right knee injury, expect to see quite a bit of Alabama third-string redshirt freshman Mac Jones behind center Saturday. Jones has played sparingly much of the season but has gotten more work in recent weeks while Hurts has been unavailable. Despite that, Jones hasn’t been able to do much even when he’s been in games, completing just 5 of 13 passes for 123 yards and one touchdown this season. With the likelihood that Alabama will be up significantly and early Saturday against the Citadel, this weekend could be Jones’ opportunity to shine.

Player of the week

Josh Jacobs, running back, junior, 5-foot-10, 216 pounds: Once considered simply a change-of-pace option, Jacobs has transformed his game into that of a physical and reliable every-down runner who can do a bit of everything, including making an impact in the passing game. This season he’s even found a niche as Alabama’s Wildcat quarterback, from which he gained 10 of his game- and season-high 97 rushing yards last Saturday against Mississippi State.

By the numbers

42: Alabama has won 42 of its 43 all-time games against teams from the FCS-level Southern Conference, with the lone exception a tie in 1935 against Samford, which was known as Howard at the time.

51: The number of career wins for Alabama’s senior class this season (51-3), which ties for second all-time in NCAA history with the 51-6 mark set by the Tide’s 2016 senior class and is two wins shy of the record 53 wins achieved by Alabama’s 2017 class last season (53-5).

80: The Crimson Tide have won 80 straight games against unranked opponents under Saban, which is the longest such streak in FBS history.

152:18: The number of minutes and seconds in actual game time that Alabama’s defense has held opponents without an offensive score, dating back to a second-quarter touchdown pass by Tennessee on Oct. 20.

Prediction

This week could — and should — be the return of Alabama’s explosive offense under Tagovailoa. No matter how long into the game he plays, so long as it’s at least a couple of series, the Crimson Tide will find success against a Citadel team that allowed nearly 500 yards of offense to Samford and more than 600 yards of offense to Towson. That said, don’t expect Alabama’s coaches to show all their bullets Saturday, likely taking a much more conservative approach against a far inferior team to both protect starters as well as not to reveal anything that can be used by rival Auburn in next week’s Iron Bowl or Georgia in the SEC title game two weeks from now.

Alabama 56, The Citadel 0

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