Football preview: Auburn starts SEC play at Texas A&M, Alabama welcomes Southern Miss, UAB meets South Alabama

Football preview: Auburn starts SEC play at Texas A&M, Alabama welcomes Southern Miss, UAB meets South Alabama
Auburn defenders Roger McCreary and K.J. Britt tackle Mike Carrigan for a short gain in last week's victory over Kent State. After three non-conference wins, the Tigers start their SEC schedule this weekend at College Station vs. Texas A&M. (Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics)

Gus Malzahn said there is a higher level of excitement as his No. 8 Auburn football team prepares to leave the friendly confines of Jordan Hare Stadium for its 2:30 p.m. game Saturday against No. 17 Texas A&M on CBS.

The Tigers’ SEC opener, their second trip to the Lone Star State, is Auburn’s first trip to the home field of an opponent. Malzahn’s men began their season with a 27-21 win over Oregon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

That makes this the first true road game for freshman quarterback Bo Nix. Malzahn said his signal-caller has his experience against Oregon “in his back pocket” but acknowledged that Saturday will be new for Nix.

“The moment won’t be too big,” the coach said. “We’ll just have to handle the noise and everything that goes with it.”

Alabama running back Najee Harris (22) scores a touchdown in the Crimson Tide’s SEC opener against South Carolina. Undefeated Alabama welcomes Southern Mississippi to Tuscaloosa this weekend. (Kent Gidley/University of Alabama Athletics)

No. 2 Alabama, 3-0 and coming off its 47-23 win at South Carolina, welcomes the Golden Eagles of Southern Miss to Bryant Denny Stadium at 11 a.m. Saturday on ESPN2.

The game is a tune-up in the minds of many, but not Nick Saban, who continues to shore up members of his front seven on defense.

“There’s no substitute for experience. There’s no question about that,” the coach said. “And we do have a lot of young guys playing in the front seven.

“But the challenge for us as coaches is to try to teach those guys,” Saban continued. “I think if those guys can really get comfortable with the basics and the basic fundamentals, then their ability to adapt in a game … they’re going to be able to adjust better. But you really can’t coach experience into players. You can just try to teach them how to do things. As they get more repetitions, hopefully they’re going to improve and develop confidence.”

When the Blazers and Jags line up across from each other for the first time ever at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on the NFL Network, 12 UAB staffers and 13 players will have a little extra motivation. They either coached at South Alabama or are from the Mobile area.

This will be the first time coach Bill Clark has squared off with the program he helped build from the ground up. He was the defensive coordinator at USA from 2008 to 2012 and helped launch the program into its first season in 2009.

“We lived in the Mobile area for five or six years (and) my kids went to school there,” Clark said. “I have a lot of great memories about Mobile and Baldwin County. This game is going to be really important to them and it is really important to us.”

UAB comes into the game after a 2-0 start and sporting a 13-0 record at Legion Field since The Return. USA comes in at 1-2, smarting from a 42-6 loss to Memphis.

 

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In other college action:

Alabama A&M at Samford: A battle of Bulldogs will take place at 6 p.m. Saturday at Seibert Stadium. The home team is 1-2 coming off a 21-14 win over FCS No. 21 Wofford. The visitors are 2-1 after knocking off North Alabama 31-24.

Grambling State at Alabama State: The Hornets (1-2) are looking to bounce back from their 42-7 loss to FCS No. 7 Kennesaw State. Kickoff Saturday is at 5 p.m.

Birmingham-Southern at Sewanee: For the second time in as many seasons, the Panthers (1-1) retained the Wesley Cup by beating in-state rival Huntingdon 45-13. Now they hit the road against their conference foe at 6 p.m. Central Saturday.

Huntingdon at Wisconsin-Oshkosh: The Hawks (1-1) face the Titans at noon Saturday.

The Miles Golden Bears have followed up last season’s SIAC championship with a 2-0 start this season. (Miles College Athletics)

North Alabama at Jacksonville State: After knocking off No. 4 Eastern Washington 49-45 in dramatic fashion, JSU climbed in both polls – three spots to 13thin the latest AFCA FCS Coaches Poll and seven spots to 10th in the STATS FCS Top 25. The Gamecocks (2-1) and Lions (1-2) square off at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Miles at Missouri S&T: The Golden Bears will try to push their record to 3-0 when they face the Miners at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Troy at Akron: The Zips take on their second team from Alabama this season. After falling 31-20 two weeks ago to UAB, they welcome the Trojans (1-1) at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Winston-Salem State at Tuskegee: The Golden Tigers (1-1) play their home opener at 1 p.m. Saturday.

West Alabama at Valdosta State: The Blazers are the defending national champions. The Tigers visit them in their conference opener at 6 p.m. Central.

HIGH SCHOOLS

Class 7A: Vestavia Hills (3-0), No. 10 in the latest Alabama Sports Writers Association poll, hosts No. 5 Mountain Brook (4-0) on Friday in Region 3.

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Class 6A: No. 10 Bessemer City travels Friday to Paul Bryant, which has built perhaps its best team in memory.

Class 5A: No. 3 Ramsay is for real, losing only to 6A No. 2 Pinson Valley. The Rams visit Fairfield (2-2) on Friday.

Class 4A: When last they met in 2018, American Christian outscored Montevallo 70-54. The Bulldogs visit the No. 2 Patriots Friday.

Class 3A: No. 9 Geraldine welcomes New Hope on Friday. Both teams are improved and the winner could win Region 7.

Class 2A: No. 6 Reeltown visits LaFayette on Friday in Region 4. It looks to be one of the best games in east Alabama.

Class 1A: No. 4 Brantley (3-0) has topped 50 points in each game this season. Georgiana (2-2) comes calling on Friday having topped 40 in one win and 50 in the other.

AISA: Southern Academy (3-0) has averaged more than 32 points a game and has won by nearly 19 points a contest. Visiting Chambers Academy (4-0), No. 3 in the latest ASWA poll, has scored no fewer than 35 points and notched 59 last week.

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