Football preview: Auburn faces big road test at Georgia, Alabama welcomes Aggies, undefeated UTSA visits UAB

Football preview: Auburn faces big road test at Georgia, Alabama welcomes Aggies, undefeated UTSA visits UAB
Auburn's Daquan Newkirk during last week's season-opening victory over Kentucky. Auburn this week faces one of its greatest rivals, the No. 4 Georgia Bulldogs, in Athens. (Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics)

Nick Saban delved into the science of genetics during his press conference this week. But he wasn’t talking about height or hair color.

Alabama running back Brian Robinson Jr. makes some yards in the Tide’s opening-season win over Missouri. (Kent Gidley/Alabama Athetics)

The Alabama coach was talking about the competitive DNA of players that will be on display this season as the normal gameday atmosphere is reduced to a stripped-down version because of the pandemic.

“What is your DNA as a competitor?” Saban asked. “You can’t really count on external factors like the crowd and the noise and the band and a lot of those things that can appeal to your emotion when you’re playing in a game. The atmosphere, you can’t really count on that.”

No. 2 Alabama hosts its first home game of this COVID-19 season Saturday as No. 13 Texas A&M visits Tuscaloosa at 2:30 p.m. broadcast on CBS.

“I’m sure we’ll have the best atmosphere that we can have relative to the number of people that we have in Bryant-Denny Stadium,” Saban said. “We’ve always had great support here. At the same time, I don’t think the players can count on that. I think it’s got to come from their DNA of who they are and how they choose to compete and create value for themselves and don’t count on external factors to get you going.”

The Aggies stumbled out of the blocks as they eked out a 17-12 win against Vanderbilt last Saturday. They’ll need to display more pop against the Tide.

Nick Saban talks about Texas A&M, mental health and preparation from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

No. 7 Auburn goes between the hedges in Athens to face No. 4 Georgia at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN. Coach Gus Malzahn called the Bulldogs “probably the most talented team overall in the SEC.”

During his press conference, Malzahn acknowledged the obvious, that 2020 is a unique year.

“There’s no doubt about that,” the Tigers coach said. “I think everybody’s learning as we go but I do expect it to be loud. I do expect it to be loud over there and we’ll have to be able to adjust to that.”

Speaking of adjusting, the Auburn coach talked about the challenge that comes from the Georgia secondary.

“They’re very sound. They’ve got good cover guys,” he said. “They do a good job of mixing things up. Then when you put in their front, which does a good job putting pressure on the quarterback, they kind of complement each other.”

UAB’s 19-game home winning streak faces a test this week when 3-0 University of Texas at San Antonio visits Legion Field. (UAB Athletics)

UAB puts the nation’s fifth-longest active home winning streak on the line when it welcomes UTSA to Legion Field. The Blazers’ homecoming contest kicks off at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

With its season-opening victory over Central Arkansas, UAB set a Conference USA record for the longest home winning streak in league history at 19 in a row. UAB is a perfect 19-0 at Legion Field since returning to action in 2017 after the program was idled for two seasons.

The visitors from San Antonio are 3-0 on the season and are one of the better teams UAB has faced on its home field.

“We’ve played some good teams,” coach Bill Clark said. “You go back to North Texas when we played them. You go back to LA Tech. We’ve played some good teams there but obviously you’ve got an undefeated team that’s coming in here with a lot of belief. I think they’re gonna be right up there with any of them.”

Clark added that this is Children’s Harbor Week for the Blazers, who will wear the names of Children’s Harbor patients on the backs of their jerseys.

“Our kids know these folks,” the coach said. “We have been doing this for a while. It is one of the great things that we do in our program. It is a big week for us and, obviously, our first conference game, as well.”

North Alabama at Liberty: The Lions begin their season at noon Saturday against the undefeated Flames.

“It’s a real challenge to not only be playing an FBS team with 85 scholarships, but to also be playing a team that has two games under its belt and is 2-0, when we’re lining up for the first time,” said UNA coach Chris Willis. “We are going to do all that we can to compete and try and win this football game. We’ll take this game and try and find an identity. We’ll have mistakes and some bad plays, but we’ll learn from them and move forward.”

Liberty is led by former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze and quarterbacked by former Auburn player Malik Willis. The team opened the season with a 30-24 road win against Western Kentucky, followed by a 36-34 home win last Saturday over FIU.

Jacksonville State at Florida State: The Gamecocks kick off their abbreviated 2020 season with a 3 p.m. game Saturday on Fox Sports South.

“It will be difficult since they (Florida State) have already played two games and are in game shape,” coach John Grass said. “It has been very hard without a full summer (or) at least a normal summer. You worry about preparing your guys to play. We are excited to be playing someone else and see where we are, and there is no better way than with a dominant and historical program like Florida State.”

The Seminoles are 0-2, coming off a 52-10 loss at Miami.

“Everyone will be talking about how they are 0-2 and didn’t really look good on Saturday, but they are still Florida State,” Grass said. “They have Florida State talent and we will have our work cut out for us on Saturday.”

Troy at South Alabama (postponed): Due to precautionary measures concerning the availability of student-athletes, the University of South Alabama announced Tuesday that Saturday’s football game against Troy has been postponed.

A new date for the “Battle For The Belt” will be communicated at a later date. With the announcement, the Jaguars are also pausing football workouts temporarily.

HIGH SCHOOLS

Class 7A: Hewitt-Trussville is No. 4 in the latest Alabama Sports Writers Association poll. The Huskies will have a challenge in hanging onto that ranking as No. 2 Hoover comes calling.

Class 6A: No. 8 Blount (4-2) visits Robertsdale (3-2).

Class 5A: Pleasant Grove sits atop this classification with a 4-1 record. Fairfield (3-2) looks to knock the Spartans off that pedestal.

Class 4A: No. 5 Good Hope (6-0) entertains No. 10 Etowah (3-2).

Class 3A: Bayside Academy (5-1) is among the teams just outside the top 10 that received votes in this week’s poll. The Admirals will certainly get more votes if they can notch a win against No. 4 Flomaton (5-0).

Class 2A: Colbert County (6-0) is undefeated and aims to remain that way after visiting No. 2 Mars Hill Bible (4-1.)

Class 1A: No. 2 Linden (4-0) travels to Hillcrest Evergreen (4-2).

AISA: No. 4 Escambia Academy welcomes Northview (Florida).

Related Stories