Football preview: Auburn has catfight with LSU, Alabama welcomes Mississippi State, UAB treks to Louisiana Tech

Football preview: Auburn has catfight with LSU, Alabama welcomes Mississippi State, UAB treks to Louisiana Tech
Alabama coach Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide team will host Mississippi State Saturday. (Kent Gidley/UA Athletics)

The post-Jaylen Waddle era continues Saturday as Alabama welcomes 1-3 Mississippi State to Bryant-Denny Stadium for a 6 p.m. game on ESPN.

Waddle, one of the most electrifying players in college football, was lost for the remainder of the season when he suffered a broken ankle while returning the opening kickoff in Alabama’s 48-17 victory over Tennessee last Saturday.

Redshirt sophomore Slade Bolden immediately slid into Waddle’s slot. The 5-foot-11, 191-pound native of West Monroe, Louisiana, caught the first pass of the game and finished with six catches for 94 yards with a long of 30 yards.

“He did a good job in the game and he’s one of the guys that I really was referring to when I said a lot of guys had to step up,” said Nick Saban, coach of the No. 2 Crimson Tide (5-0). “I guess it’s a good lesson for young players that you’re one play away from being in the game and that’s why it’s important for you to prepare the way you need to prepare.

“Slade’s got some maturity and has some experience and really stepped up well for us in the game.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban, QB Mac Jones size up Mississippi State from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

There will be a catfight at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS as the Tigers of LSU (2-2) visit the Auburn Tigers (3-2). Each team opened the season ranked among the nation’s best, but two losses apiece have dropped them from the Top 25.

Auburn Tigers quarterback Bo Nix is coming off a good game against Ole Miss. (Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports)

LSU is coming off a 52-24 win over South Carolina, which a week prior knocked off Auburn 30-22. Auburn seemed to travel light years from the team that came apart at times in a loss to the Gamecocks to a squad that pulled together to conquer Ole Miss.

Coach Gus Malzahn said the difference was Auburn playing the way Auburn should.

“I think it was just overall getting back to playing good, old hard-nosed Auburn football was the main thing,” he said. “On the sidelines, guys were really picking each other up. We handled adversity extremely well. There was just that feeling on the sideline that our guys felt like we were going to win the whole game, no matter what the score was, the circumstances. That was really what I took from last week.”

Part of Auburn’s hard-nosed play was again evident in the performance of freshman running back Tank Bigsby, who had his third consecutive 100-yard game, rushing for 129 yards on 24 carries with two touchdowns to help down the Rebels. Malzahn said Bigsby has handled the load on his shoulders well.

Obviously with the addition of getting (running back Shaun) Shivers back, I thought it was a really good one-two punch,” the coach said. “Both of them are running extremely hard. Both of them have breakaway speed. Both can break tackles. I think those guys are settling down.”

Freshman quarterback TJ Finley will again be at the controls of the LSU offense.

UAB has to rebound from its loss to Louisiana and travel to Louisiana Tech. (UAB Athletics)

On Birmingham’s Southside, the sun rose last Saturday on the first day in a long while following a UAB home football loss. The Blazers’ streak of 21 straight came to an end as Bill Clark’s team fell 24-20 to the Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana.

“After a loss, it is some of the hardest times for coaches,” Clark said. “It is hard for coaches. It is hard for players. That is how we grow. That is what we have always done and that is how we do it.

“Our players are upset, obviously,” the coach continued. “Something would be wrong with them if they were not upset. It is all about getting back and getting that bad taste out of our mouths. Once again, we know we are going to be playing an opponent who feels the same way. We have to fix us and always correct our mistakes. That is always what we are trying to do.”

The Blazers (4-2) will see how well they put last week’s loss behind them as they visit Louisiana Tech (3-3) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

South Alabama at Georgia Southern (tonight): The Jaguars (3-2 overall) improved to 2-0 in the Sun Belt Conference when they outscored Louisiana-Monroe 38-14. They’ll face the Eagles (3-2) at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Troy at Arkansas State: Coming off a 36-34 home loss to Georgia State, the Trojans (3-2 overall, 1-1 Sun Belt) look to climb over .500 in league action. The Red Wolves are 3-3. Kickoff is at 2 p.m.

 

HIGH SCHOOLS

Class 7A: The Vestavia Rebels (3-6) have not had the season they would desire as a sendoff for hall of fame coach Buddy Anderson. Back-to-back victories – 32-7 over Spain Park and 45-7 over Gadsden City – certainly have the Rebels looking to send their coach out in his final game with a three-game win streak as they face Shades Valley (3-6).

Class 6A: Pinson Valley, ranked No. 3 in the latest Alabama Sports Writers Association poll, had its regularly scheduled game with Mortimer Jordan canceled by COVID-19. Instead, the Indians will host Lee-Montgomery (6-3).

Class 5A: No. 2 St. Paul’s (8-0) welcomes Class 4A Vigor (5-3).

Class 4A: No. 4 Handley (7-0) hosts Class 5A No. 4 Central Clay County (8-1).

Class 3A: No. 3 Piedmont (8-1) heads to Class 5A No. 6 Alexandria (9-0).

Class 2A: Sylvania (5-4) would like to be better than .500 next week when it enters the playoffs. To do that, the Rams will have to notch a win at No. 6 North Sand Mountain (8-1).

Class 1A: No. 2 Linden (8-0) closes out the regular season at Aliceville (6-3).

AISA: No. 3 Escambia Academy is at No. 2 Bessemer Academy. Each team is 7-1.

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