Football preview: It’s dog day in Alabama as Tide welcomes Western Carolina, Auburn takes on Samford and UAB faces Louisiana Tech

Football preview: It’s dog day in Alabama as Tide welcomes Western Carolina, Auburn takes on Samford and UAB faces Louisiana Tech
Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy gains yardage against Mississippi State. The Tide has another group of Bulldogs as this week's opponent -- Western Carolina. (Kent Gidley/University of Alabama Athletics)

The post-Tua Tagovailoa era begins at 11 a.m. Saturday as the 9-1 Crimson Tide welcomes Western Carolina to Bryant-Denny Stadium on ESPN.

The Tide lost its Heisman Trophy-candidate quarterback to a dislocated right hip in its 38-7 victory over Mississippi State. That puts the reins of the Bama offense in the hands of redshirt sophomore Mac Jones.

It’s an offense, coach Nick Saban said, that won’t change much from the one run by Tagovailoa, who had successful surgery in Houston, Texas, on Monday.

“Mac played in the Arkansas game and did a nice job,” Saban said. “He’s smart, he understands the offense, he’s made a lot of improvement throughout the course of the year. We have a lot of confidence in Mac and I think Sark’s (offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian) done a really good job of helping him develop throughout the year. … We’re not changing what we do.”

Alabama, which held at No. 5 in this week’s College Football Playoff ranking, could also be without defensive end Raekwon Davis, defensive tackle DJ Dale and wide receiver Henry Ruggs. Each is listed as questionable after being hurt against Mississippi State.

Auburn’s Seth Williams (18) runs after a catch in last week’s 21-14 loss to No. 4 Georgia. (Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics)

Auburn, 7-3 and No. 15 in the CFP ranking, welcomes Samford at 11 a.m. Saturday on the SEC Network. The Tigers are still smarting from their 21-14 loss last week to CFP No. 4 Georgia.

“Now we’ll turn the page,” coach Gus Malzahn said. “Our goal now is to win 10 games, which is extremely hard to do with a schedule like we have. Our guys are putting it behind us.

“We’ve got Samford coming up, and I think there are some things that we can take from that fourth quarter (against Georgia) that will help us the rest of the season,” he continued. “We’re turning the page for Samford and looking forward to finishing the season in a positive way.”

Samford (5-6) is coming off a 31-13 win over Western Carolina.

UAB hosts Conference USA-leading Louisiana Tech on Senior Day this Saturday at Legion Field. Kickoff is 2:30 p.m. on ESPN+.

The Blazers (7-3, 4-2 C-USA) look to take another step in defending their league title in a must-win situation against the Bulldogs (8-2, 5-1 C-USA).

UAB must win out and have Southern Miss lose at least once more. If that happens, it could potentially create a three-way tie at 6-2 with UAB, Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss.

The Blazers are putting their 17-game home winning streak on the line.

“To go undefeated at home, if we can do it, how much better does it get than that?” UAB coach Bill Clark asked. “That would be great to be able to send them (supporters) out like that against a great opponent.”

In other college action:

Miles at Lenoir-Rhyne: For the second time in school history, Miles has been selected to participate in the NCAA Division II Football Championship playoffs. The Golden Bears are seeded seventh and will travel to No. 2 seed Lenoir-Rhyne in the first round on Saturday at noon Central. It will be the first-ever contest between the two schools.

Miles College Head Football Coach Reginald Ruffin is taking his Golden Bears to the NCAA Division II Football Championship playoffs. (file)

“This is a big deal for our school, our program, everyone who works hard so we can be successful,” said Miles head coach Reginald Ruffin. “Our guys deserve this opportunity to compete for a national championship. So we’re going to stay focused, prepare and get locked in to face a good Lenoir-Rhyne team.”

Miles set a school record for victories in a single season, going 9-2 in the regular season and having won three straight, culminating this past Saturday with a 21-6 win over Albany State to secure the program’s second consecutive Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship.

The Golden Bears will make their first NCAA Playoff appearance since 2012, when they fell to West Alabama in the opening round.

Lenoir-Rhyne enters the contest 11-0 and has won back-to-back South Atlantic Conference titles. Those Bears have won 21 straight regular-season games and are making their fifth trip to the playoffs.

The game will feature two of the top defensive teams in Division II. Miles is 13th in total defense (275.7 yards per game), while Lenoir-Rhyne checks in at 23rd (292.8). Both teams know how to get to the quarterback, as they are tied for fourth in the nation in sacks (40).

Huntingdon at Berry (first round, NCAA Division III playoffs): The Hawks will take on the Vikings at 11 a.m. Central on Saturday in Rome, Georgia’s Valhalla Stadium in the opening round.

After a disappointing 2018 season, Coach Mike Turk’s Huntingdon Hawks are headed to the 2019 NCAA Division III playoffs. (Huntingdon College Athletics)

“I’m incredibly proud of everybody involved with this team and the way our guys believed they could be where they are right now,” Huntingdon head coach Mike Turk said. “After last year and the way we started this season, there were so many opportunities for this team to not believe it could be here. But we didn’t do that. That’s really what it boils down to, the leadership on this team believed this day would come and they made it happen.”

This is Huntingdon’s first playoff appearance since 2017 and the fourth playoff appearance in the past five seasons.

Mississippi Valley State at Alabama A&M: The Bulldogs’ bid for a berth in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship Game faded away with their 34-28 loss to Alcorn State. Now the aim for A&M (6-5) is to finish above .500 when they kick off at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Eastern Kentucky at Jacksonville State: The Gamecocks (6-5) are coming off back-to-back losses. Their regular season ends at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

South Alabama at Georgia State: The Jaguars are 1-9 as they head to Atlanta for a 1 p.m. Central meeting with the 6-4 Panthers  on ESPN+.

Troy at Louisiana: The Trojans take a 5-5 overall record into their 4 p.m. game Saturday at the 8-2 Ragin’ Cajuns’ Cajun Field in Lafayette.

Off this weekend: Alabama State.

Season done: Birmingham-Southern, Tuskegee, North Alabama, West Alabama.

HIGH SCHOOLS 

Class 7A: In an age when bullying is not condoned, it is fair to say that Hoover has been the bully since the inception of Class 7A in the Alabama High School Athletic Association. The Bucs have won three of the five titles since the biggest schools went to a new, seventh classification. But the bully has at least met a challenger in Thompson. In the past three years, the Bucs have gone 2-3 against the Warriors overall, falling 31-28 to them in last year’s state semifinal. Friday, Hoover, which lost 48-30 to Thompson in the regular season, heads to Alabaster for a battle of behemoths. Thompson (10-1) was No. 3 in the final Alabama Sports Writers Association poll and Hoover (10-2) No. 5.

Class 6A: Two-time defending champion Pinson Valley (8-2) was No. 3 in the final poll, Muscle Shoals (12-0) No. 2. The Indians head north Friday to keep alive their hopes of a third straight title. 

Class 5A: Pleasant Grove (11-1) travels to Lawson Field on Friday to take on Ramsay (10-2). The Spartans are No. 3, the Rams No. 7. 

Class 4A: No. 1 UMS-Wright (11-0) welcomes No. 2 Montgomery Catholic (12-0) on Friday. 

Class 3A: No. 6 Walter Wellborn (11-1) heads to Wedowee on Friday to take on No. 3 Randolph County (11-1).

Class 2A: No. 1 Fyffe hosts No. 4 Red Bay on Friday. Each team is 12-0.

Class 1A: No. 6 Decatur Heritage (12-0) heads northwest for its game with No. 1 Mars Hill Bible (12-0) in Florence.

AISA: No. 3 Bessemer Academy squares off with No. 10 Glenwood Academy for the AAA title on Friday at 7 p.m. at Troy University. It is the third of three AISA championship tilts in Veterans Memorial Stadium.

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