Football preview: After 21-day break, Alabama back in action vs. Kentucky as Auburn welcomes Vols

Football preview: After 21-day break, Alabama back in action vs. Kentucky as Auburn welcomes Vols
Alabama wide receiver John Metchie III practices in preparation for Saturday's game vs. the Kentucky Wildcats at Bryant-Denny Stadium. It will be the team's first game in 21 days following a scheduled off week, then a game postponed because of COVID-19. (Kent Gidley/Alabama Athletics)

A week after Alabama – like Auburn, UAB and Troy – was benched by COVID-19, coach Nick Saban said staying compliant with rules and keeping players healthy is of utmost importance.

“I think the second thing is you’ve really got to deal with what’s in front of you, knowing that there’s been a lot of things that happen that create some changes,” Saban said. “But this is the way you play. You focus on the next play, you focus on today, you focus on this game. I think that’s really what’s important for our team to do right now.

“I think they’ve done a really good job doing that,” said Saban, whose Crimson Tide remains the No. 1 team in the Associated Press Top 25. “We had a good week last week. Everybody stayed kind of focused and on point. We want to continue to do that.”

Auburn’s Eli Stove makes a 38-yard gain during the Tigers’ game with LSU almost three weeks ago. The Tigers are scheduled to return to the field after an extended break to face the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday. (Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics)

Alabama (6-0) welcomes Kentucky (3-4) at 3 p.m. Saturday on the SEC Network.

No. 23 Auburn (4-2), like the Tide, will not have competed on the field for 21 days before it welcomes Tennessee to Jordan-Hare Stadium at 6 p.m. Saturday on ESPN.

The Tigers will try to repeat the magic of their best showing this season, when they trounced defending national champion LSU 48-11 on Halloween.

“We just need to keep building on that,” coach Gus Malzahn said. “What we’re telling our guys is we need to play our best game again.”

Auburn’s defense could face as many as three quarterbacks for the 2-4 Volunteers.

“It’s such an interesting year that everything’s a little different,” Malzahn said. “The fact that you may see some different quarterbacks is probably not as big a deal this year as some years just because you’ve got to be prepared for all the different challenges. It is probably good that we have a little extra time to prepare.”

North Alabama at No. 8 Brigham Young: Coach Chris Willis doesn’t need hyperbole to prepare his Lions (0-3) for what they’ll face at 2 p.m. Central on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. For the first time in school history, UNA will face a nationally ranked FBS program in No. 8 and unbeaten (8-0) BYU.

Not only are the Cougars undefeated, they are outscoring their opponents by an average score of 45-13. In addition, BYU quarterback Zach Wilson is among the leading candidates – along with Alabama’s Mac Jones – for the Heisman Trophy and is a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, having already thrown for 2,512 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. He has rushed for 158 yards and another eight TDs.

“This will be the best football team that any UNA team has faced in the history of the program, hands down,” Willis said. “This will be a tremendous challenge for our guys in all phases of the game.”

But no matter what the scoreboard says at game’s end, the Lions will have accomplished something big. UNA is in the third year of its four-year transition to Division I and the Football Championship Subdivision and Saturday’s game will complete what the NCAA has ruled a season in that quest.

Middle Tennessee State at Troy: The Raiders (2-6, 2-4 Sun Belt) visit the Trojans (4-3, 2-2) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Georgia State at South Alabama: The Jaguars (3-5, 2-3 Sun Belt) welcome the Panthers (3-4, 2-4 Sun Belt) for their first home game in 28 days. Kickoff is at 3 p.m. Saturday on ESPNU.

HIGH SCHOOLS

Class 7A: Hoover (11-1) was ranked No. 2 in the final Alabama Sports Writers Association poll. The perennial title contender lost its grip on the blue state championship trophy when No. 1 Thompson (12-0) beat Hoover at this same point last season. Will history repeat itself Friday as the Bucs again visit the Warriors? Thompson has won the past three meetings between these heavyweights.

Class 6A: No. 6 Clay-Chalkville visits No. 2 Mountain Brook. Each is 11-1.

Class 5A: No. 3 Pleasant Grove (9-2) hits the road to take on No. 8 Alexandria (11-1).

Class 4A: It will be ACA vs. ACA as No. 1 American Christian (12-0) ventures to Montgomery to face Alabama Christian (10-2).

Class 3A: No. 5 Montgomery Academy (12-0) welcomes Trinity Presbyterian (10-2).

Class 2A: No. 2 Lanett (10-2) is at No. 3 Leroy (10-1).

Class 1A: No. 1 Brantley (12-0) hosts No. 3 Maplesville (9-3).

AISA: No. 7 Pike Liberal Arts (9-2) outscored No. 4 Bessemer Academy 35-15 to reach this week’s Class AAA title game on Friday at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery. The Patriots can claim a championship trophy with a win over No. 1 Glenwood (10-0).

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