Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) throws the ball during the Iron Bowl at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Alabama Crimson Tide defeated Auburn Tigers 24-22 in 4OT.

Title a longshot, No. 7 Alabama digs in for Auburn

No. 7 Alabama grasps the slimmest of College Football Playoff hopes with clenched fists at the ready for the annual rivalry game with Auburn on Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

The Iron Bowl has been owned by the Crimson Tide in recent vintage with Alabama claiming six of the last eight meetings. But things are different for both sides this week.

Alabama (9-2) is ranked outside the Top 5 entering the Thanksgiving Weekend game for the first time since 2010 — then No. 9, the Crimson Tide lost 28-27 to No. 2 Auburn — but the Tigers are something more than an underdog at 5-6 and in sixth place in the SEC West.

“We’re excited to have this challenge in front of us,” Tigers interim coach Carnell Williams said. “We are fired up.”

Williams said the physical defensive front of Alabama, including the Tide’s LB corps, is as impressive as any he can recall.

“Ooh, they’re are physical bunch, big, long,” Williams said. “Will Anderson, he’s a handful. (Linebackers) get downhill and can run. We … have a challenge. But we are going down there to fight and compete.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban attempts to steer the Crimson Tide away from a third SEC loss to remain in position for a prime bowl.

“We’ve got to keep coaching our team to get it right on a consistent basis. This is one of the greatest rivalry games in college football. Most every team and rivalry games, this is part of their legacy in terms of how did they do in the rivalry games. This is one of the biggest ones. It means a lot to a lot of people in our state. It means a lot to us.”

Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young can move to second all-time on the Alabama passing yards list with 233 yards, which would pass John Parker Wilson and settle the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner behind AJ McCarron despite starting just 25 career games to date. Young has a TD pass in every game he has started, including a pair in last year’s four-overtime win over the Tigers.

Young said he’s delaying a decision about playing in any postseason games and the NFL draft until next week.

“Obviously this is huge. This is a huge game,” Young said. “This means a lot to me, to people in the entire state. To us as a team. This is a huge game. All I think about is today. How can I be the best version of myself today? To get ready to put myself in the best circumstances. How we as a team can do that. That’s all my head is focused on.”

Alabama has two losses by a total of four points: 52-49 at Tennessee and 32-21 at LSU in overtime. With Alabama, Saban is 6-1 all-time against Auburn at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

On the Alabama list of goals, beating Auburn is a constant but falls below the championship standard Saban established. He said that this week the focus and preparation need to be at a championship level even if the usual trophies aren’t on the table for the perennial contenders.

It could be the final SEC game for several Alabama stars who could choose to be recognized on Senior Day, including Young and Anderson, projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

“Will has done great for us. He helps other players play better. He does his job extremely well, and if they’re focusing on him a little bit more it gives others an opportunity to make plays,” Saban said. “He helps our team as much as any player on our team.”

Auburn beat Texas A&M (13-10) and Western Kentucky (41-17) to build momentum. The Tigers are leaning into the typical drumbeat of “Beat ‘Bama” this week and are also motivated to help make Williams’ position permanent.

But Saban said players didn’t have to publicly endorse Williams as their choice as head coach — it’s obvious in their play on the field.

“The energy, the enthusiasm, the way they compete to win — and he was the same way as a player, a great competitor,” Saban said of Williams.

–Field Level Media

Nov 12, 2022; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban walks the field during warm up prior to the game against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

No. 8 Alabama preps for Iron Bowl with Austin Peay

Alabama isn’t used to being out of the national championship picture this time of year.

But yet here’s where the Crimson Tide stand as they prepare to host Austin Peay on Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Alabama (8-2), ranked No. 8 in the latest College Football Playoff poll that was released late Tuesday night, has lost multiple games in the regular season for only the fourth time since Nick Saban became the Tide’s coach in 2007.

With Georgia and LSU locked in to play for the Southeastern Conference title and Tennessee also ranked ahead of them, the Crimson Tide seem to have little left to play for barring some upsets in the coming weeks aside from perhaps a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Games like Saturday’s are a chance to evaluate its roster and perhaps begin to look toward the future with the transfer portal opening after the regular season and players soon making decisions on whether they will declare for the NFL Draft.

In the present, Saban was pleased with seeing his team pull off a 30-24 victory at Ole Miss this past weekend. Quarterback Bryce Young, one of those players who could choose to move on and try to go pro in the coming weeks, led Alabama by throwing for 209 yards and three touchdowns on 21 of 33 attempts.

Alabama converted all four of its red zone opportunities and its defense stopped the Rebels three times in the final quarter.

“It was great to see our players happy and excited to be celebrating a win, a really good win for them, after getting behind in the game, 17-7,” Saban said on Monday. “To come back and sort of play the way we’re capable of playing and do things with sort of a relentless competitive sort of spirit and enthusiasm and togetherness as a team, I think was great.”

The Crimson Tide can take a long look at its personnel against this week’s FCS opponent before the Iron Bowl next week.

Austin Peay will face Alabama for the first time in what will be the culmination of a three-game road trip for the Governors (7-3), who are finishing up their first season in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Austin Peay won its first two games on the trip at North Alabama and Kennesaw State and are still battling for a spot in the upcoming FCS playoffs.

The Governors scored 28 unanswered points to rally for a 31-14 win over Kennesaw State – the conference’s preseason favorite. Austin Peay has been led all season by its stingy defense as it hopes to make it five consecutive seasons advancing to the playoffs (not counting the 2020 season).

Austin Peay will naturally be a heavy underdog Saturday, but its coach Scotty Walden truly believes his team has done enough to earn a postseason berth.

“We are a playoff team,” Walden told reporters recently. “I know with all my heart and soul; we are a freaking playoff team. They just tell us where to go, you tell us to go to Maine, Vermont, or wherever the heck you want. The Govs are going to show up man, anyone anytime.

“We believe in our program. Pick us fifth, pick us sixth all you want preseason, we just knocked off the preseason number one team in this conference, and keep doubting us, because we like earning everything.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 22, 2022; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA;  Mississippi Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin looks on during the second half against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

SEC foes Ole Miss, Alabama vie for win to keep hopes alive

The Southeastern Conference’s “Road to Atlanta” was supposed to reach a major intersection this week on the campus of Ole Miss, but one powerhouse school’s hopes of making the SEC Championship Game have diminished while the host school will a little need help, too.

On Saturday afternoon in Oxford, Miss., the No. 11 Ole Miss Rebels will welcome the No. 9 Alabama Crimson Tide, with neither team having any margin for error if it wants to entertain the possibility of going to the conference title game in Atlanta.

Ole Miss (8-1, 4-1 SEC) lost 45-20 at LSU on Oct. 22, putting the squad in a must-win situation if it wanted to make this season even more special than last year’s 10-win regular season and Sugar Bowl appearance.

Now, the Rebels find themselves needing two situations to take place in order to make it to the SECCG on Dec. 3 — win out, and hope the No. 7 LSU Tigers, holding the head-to-head tiebreaker, fall at least once in one of their final two conference games at Arkansas or at Texas A&M.

So first, they have to take care of Alabama (7-2, 4-2), which fell 32-31 in dramatic fashion last Saturday night on the road at LSU’s “Death Valley.”

Rebels coach Lane Kiffin even reached out to a popular SEC college football host and urged him not to egg on Nick Saban even more. Falling on Saturday would mark the first time Alabama has lost back-to-back games since 2013.

“I texted (Paul) Finebaum on the way over here when I saw his quotes when he normally does and he says the Nick Saban dynasty is over and all that,” said Kiffin, a former Alabama assistant. “Every time he says this — which I tell him — all he does is, I call it, like, GOAT fuel. The opposite of rat poison. You’re just like, giving the GOAT fuel, which for him, that works. He goes and proves them wrong every time.

“So really appreciate you, Paul, saying that right after the game. I’m sure that was on his desk Sunday morning.”

Alabama’s two SEC defeats — to Tennessee and LSU — are uncharacteristic for such a juggernaut of a program, which has struggled four times so far.

While some could argue that the Crimson Tide could have beaten the Volunteers with a shorter late field goal or won in overtime with better clock management, the naysayers will point to a last-second field goal at Texas and a goal-line stand at home against Texas A&M that could have added two more losses to the Tuscaloosa team’s ledger.

“I know people have kind of written us off to some degree,” Saban said. “We’ve had four games that have come down basically to the last play of the game. We won two of them and lost two of them by a total of four points.

“We’re going to play a good team this week, and I’m sure they’re going to want to put up on their mantel, ‘We beat Alabama, too.’ It’s just a matter of whether we’re going to allow that to happen or do everything we can to avoid it.”

Alabama has won six straight in the series after losing to former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze in 2014 and 2015. However, that 2014 triumph was vacated for Freeze using ineligible players.

–Field Level Media

Nov 5, 2022; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Brian Branch (14) tackles LSU Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) during the first half at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

No. 10 LSU stuns No. 6 Alabama with 2-pt conversion in OT

Jayden Daniels threw two touchdown passes, ran for a touchdown and passed for a winning two-point conversion as No. 10 LSU beat No. 6 Alabama 32-31 in overtime in a Southeastern Conference game Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La.

Daniels passed for 182 yards, rushed for 95 and connected with Mason Taylor for the winning conversion as the Tigers (7-2, 5-1 SEC) took the lead in the SEC West.

Bryce Young passed for 328 yards and a touchdown to lead the Tide (7-2, 4-2), who lost for the second time in three games.

Alabama got the ball first in overtime and Roydell Williams ran 1 yard for a touchdown and a 31-24 lead.

But on the Tigers’ first play, Daniels ran 25 yards for a touchdown and coach Brian Kelly decided to go for the win and Taylor barely crossed the goal line after catching Daniels’ pass.

Alabama’s Will Reichard kicked a 46-yard field goal with 21 seconds left in the fourth quarter to force overtime after the lead changed hands six times in the second half.

Daniels had thrown a 7-yard touchdown pass to Taylor to give LSU a 24-21 lead with 1:47 left.

On the first possession of the third quarter, Alabama converted two fourth-and-1s on its way to Reichard’s 38-yard field goal that gave it the lead for the first time, 9-7.

LSU responded on the ensuing possession with a 75-yard drive that ended with Josh Williams’ 2-yard run for a 14-9 lead with 3:30 left in the third quarter.

The Tide drove 76 yards and Roydell Williams’ 2-yard touchdown run gave them a 15-14 lead with 12:37 remaining.

The Tigers drove to Damian Ramos’ 32-yard field goal that gave them a 17-15 lead with 6:52 remaining.

Young’s 41-yard touchdown pass to Ja’Corey Brooks on third-and-10 put Alabama back on top, 21-17 with 4:44 left.

LSU took a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter when Daniels threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to John Emery Jr.

Reichard kicked a 29-yard field goal and added a 36-yard field goal as time expired in the first to pull Alabama within 7-6 at halftime.

–Field Level Media

Sep 17, 2022; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban talks to quarterback Bryce Young (9) during the second half against the UL Monroe Warhawks at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

No. 10 LSU eyes rise in West, upset of No. 6 Alabama

First place in the SEC West will be at stake when No. 6 Alabama visits No. 10 LSU on Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La.

The Crimson Tide (7-1, 4-1) can seize control of the West by beating the Tigers (6-2, 4-1), then winning next week at No. 11 Ole Miss, the only other team in the division with just one loss. That defeat came against LSU two weeks ago.

Alabama and LSU were off last week and landed in the top 10 of the initial College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday. A rise in the West standings and the rankings is part of what is at stake Saturday.

“This game has always got significant implications,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “They’re always ranked, we’re always ranked. It’s kind of a rivalry game that’s always a really important match-up.”

Alabama lost to then-No. 6 Tennessee 52-49 three weeks ago before bouncing back with a 30-6 home victory against Mississippi State a week later.

“You never know how a bye week’s going to affect a team,” Saban said. “Hopefully, it gave us a chance to get some guys healthy. I think psychologically, it gives you a chance to sort of recalibrate a little bit, get a little break.

“The focus is so important, I think, regardless of whether you’re coming off a bye week or you’re playing week in and week out, to be able to sustain that, recapture it, regain it, momentum, whatever you want to call it.”

After giving up 567 total yards and five touchdown passes against Tennessee, the Alabama defense was much improved against Mississippi State, but the offense managed just two field goals in the second half and finished with 29 rushing yards on 27 carries.

“Obviously it wasn’t very good in the last game,” Saban said of the running game. “We’ve got to have a little more diversity in what we’re doing as well as being able to execute it a little better on a more consistent basis.”

The Tigers have been playing better of late in their first season under former Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly.

They won at Florida 45-35 before beating previously undefeated Ole Miss 45-20 in their last two games before the break.

“You have to take this game and think about how you got here,” Kelly said. “We’ve done it by our preparation. We have focused on playing our best when our best is needed.

“Our best players are going to have to play well, we’re going to have to play consistently for four quarters. We must get off to a good start because we’ve shown we’re going to play well in the second half.”

The Tigers have yet to score first in an SEC game, but they have bounced back to win each game except a 40-13 loss to Tennessee.

They weren’t expected to be contending for the division title this late in the season, coming off a 6-7 record last season and a 5-5 record in 2020.

Those seasons in the wake of the 2019 national championship season led to the firing of Ed Orgeron and the hiring of Kelly. LSU beat the Tide 46-41 on its way to that title, but that’s the Tigers’ only victory over Alabama in the last 11 meetings.

“This is why you come to LSU,” Kelly said. “This is why I came to LSU. It’s not pressure, it’s a privilege to play in games like this.”

–Field Level Media

Alabama defensive lineman Justin Eboigbe (92) pressures Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) as he throws during the 2021 College Football Playoff Semifinal game at the 86th Cotton Bowl in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas Friday, Dec. 31, 2021. Alabama defeated Cincinnati 27-6 to advance to the national championship game. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

College Football Playoffs Alabama Vs Cincinnati

Alabama DE Justin Eboigbe (neck) unlikely to play again in 2022

Alabama defensive end Justin Eboigbe likely will miss the rest of the season after recently undergoing neck surgery, coach Nick Saban said Wednesday.

Eboigbe hasn’t played since Sept. 24 against Vanderbilt due to the injury. He had 11 tackles in four games prior to being hurt.

“He had a procedure done that would enhance his opportunity to be able to play in the future, but I don’t think that’s going to come this season,” Saban told reporters.

Saban first revealed Eboigbe was injured after Alabama beat Arkansas on Oct. 1.

Eboigbe has 59 tackles, two sacks, two fumble recoveries and one interception in 42 games for the Crimson Tide.

No. 6 Alabama has a bye this week and returns to action at No. 18 LSU on Nov. 5.

–Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2022; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Jermaine Burton (3) catches a pass against Tennessee Volunteers defensive back Christian Charles (14) during the second half at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama studying video of WR Jermaine Burton allegedly striking woman

Alabama coach Nick Saban said the school is investigating after a video surfaced that apparently shows receiver Jermaine Burton striking a woman after Saturday’s 52-49 loss to Tennessee in Knoxville.

The video clip was posted to TikTok by Emily Isaacs and included the caption, “Jermaine Burton smacking me in the head while walking past him after their loss Saturday.”

Saban addressed the situation on Wednesday.

“We are aware of the situation with Jermaine Burton as he was exiting the field Saturday,” Saban said. “We are currently working to gather more information.”

Thousands of Tennessee fans stormed the field after the last-second victory and it wasn’t easy for Alabama players to navigate through the humanity and get off the field.

The video shows Burton, wearing his No. 3 jersey, moving toward a female, who appears to try to move out of his path. But Burton veers in the fan’s direction and appears to hit the woman in the head.

Isaacs used an #ouch emoji with her caption remark of the incident.

The victory was Tennessee’s first over Alabama since 2006. The school was fined $100,000 by the SEC for violating the conference’s field access policy.

Amid the hoopla, fans also took down the goalposts and chucked them into the nearby Tennessee River.

Burton transferred from Georgia to Alabama following last season. He has 18 receptions for 266 yards and three touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2022; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban reacts during the first half against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

No. 6 Alabama, No. 24 Mississippi State meet on rebound

Under coach Nick Saban, the Alabama Crimson Tide does not lose often, but when they do, they probably have a pretty good idea of who they will play in their next game.

Coming off tough road losses last weekend, No. 6 Alabama and No. 24 Mississippi State will meet in a Southeastern Conference contest Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Since Saban arrived at Alabama in 2007, there have been six occasions when the Crimson Tide have lost and then faced Mississippi State the following week.

Alabama (6-1, 3-1) met the Bulldogs (5-2, 2-2) last year after losing at Texas A&M. The Crimson Tide also faced them after losing at home to LSU in 2019. Now, the matchup follows a road defeat vs. Tennessee — Saban’s first to the Volunteers in 16 career meetings as Alabama’s coach.

Alabama’s demise at Knoxville came down to a missed 50-yard field with 15 seconds left, multiple penalties and poor defense. Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker passed for 385 yards and five touchdowns, all to wideout Jalin Hyatt.

“I don’t think the no-huddle offense was the issue for us,” Saban said after his squad’s 52-49 loss and a wild post-game celebration at Neyland Stadium. “It was covering their receivers and allowing way too many big plays. … Guys got to play with better focus, better leverage and got to cover people better.”

Mississippi State coach Mike Leach was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Tennessee coach Josh Heupel when the latter played quarterback at Oklahoma in 1999.

Leach recognized a few plays the Volunteers ran in the Alabama upset from his Oklahoma days, saying: “I can think of a play in particular that we ran back in the day. (Heupel’s) got his quarterback running that play better than he ran it.”

Against Tennessee, the Crimson Tide committed 17 penalties for 130 yards — more than the 114 they rushed for.

Alabama’s fall to sixth in the latest Top 25 poll ended the team’s streak of 40 weeks inside the top five, an active streak currently owned by No. 1 Georgia (24).

The 52 points was the most scored against Alabama since Sewanee hung 54 on the Crimson Tide in 1907.

After losing to the Bulldogs in his first meeting in 2007, Saban has won 14 straight – with only two being one-score games (25-20 in 2014 and 31-24 in 2017).

The Bulldogs likely will be the lone ranked team to come to Tuscaloosa in 2022 — FCS Austin Peay and Auburn (3-4) will finish the home slate — but Leach’s group also is licking its wounds.

On Saturday at Kentucky, the Wildcats grounded the dangerous aerial assault of Mississippi State star passer Will Rogers. The junior quarterback, who started the game averaging 351.7 yards per outing, was held in check — completing 25 of 37 throws for 203 yards with a TD and an interception.

Rogers’ 70 career TD passes ties him with Dak Prescott (2012-15) for the most in school history. Rogers needs 338 yards to eclipse Prescott’s milestone of 9,376 total passing yards.

The Bulldogs failed to contain Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. (30 carries for 196 yards, two TDs), who helped keep the ball out of Rogers’ hand as the Wildcats dominated the time of possession, 39:22 to 20:38.

–Field Level Media

Sep 10, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Cedric Tillman (4) reacts after scoring the game winning touchdown against the Pittsburgh Panthers in overtime at Acrisure Stadium.  Tennessee won 34-27 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Vols WR Cedric Tillman, S Jaylen McCollough out

Tennessee wide receiver Cedric Tillman and safety Jaylen McCollough will miss Saturday’s Top 10 showdown with visiting Alabama, ESPN reported.

The No. 6 Volunteers (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) are looking for their first win against the Crimson Tide (6-0, 3-0) since 2006.

Tillman practiced on a limited basis this week but hasn’t played since injuring his ankle in a Sept. 17 victory over Akron.

Tillman has 17 catches for 246 yards and one touchdown this season. He caught 64 passes for 1,081 yards and 12 scores in 2021.

McCollough is inactive after being arrested on felony assault charges earlier this week. His status for the rest of the season is uncertain.

A four-year starter for the Volunteers, McCollough has 23 tackles in five games this season.

–Field Level Media

Oct 8, 2022; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA;  Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) walks off the field after a Crimson Tide victory over the Texas A&M Aggies at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama still uncertain about Bryce Young’s availability

The status of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young remains uncertain for the third-ranked Crimson Tide’s visit to No. 6 Tennessee on Saturday.

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner did not play last week in Alabama’s 24-20 win over Texas A&M because of an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder. He got hurt during the previous game against Arkansas.

Coach Nick Saban said after practice on Wednesday, “Bryce continues to practice a little bit more. We’ve got him on a little bit of a pitch count just to kind of wean him back into it and see how it goes. So we expect him to do even a little more tomorrow. That’s all I really have to say about that.”

Jalen Milroe played in Young’s spot last week and completed 12 of 19 passes for 111 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. The Crimson Tide were held scoreless on their final four possessions and held on after the Aggies reached their 2-yard line in the final seconds.

Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said of Young and Milroe, “I think you have to prepare for both of them. You have to have a plan even if you know who the starter is because you know there’s gonna be some things that are different depending on if the other guy goes into the football game.

“For us, starting with Coach (Tim) Banks and our defensive staff and our players, understanding who’s in and the types of things that you’re gonna see. Obviously, our calls may adjust in situations based on who the QB is, but you have to prepare for both of them anyways.”

Young has completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 1,202 yards with 14 TDs and three interceptions. Milroe has a 60.9 percent completion rate for 262 yards with five scoring passes and two interceptions.

The Crimson Tide (6-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) slipped out of the top spot in the rankings this week after the tight escape vs. Texas A&M. The Volunteers (5-0, 2-0) have their highest ranking of the season this week after routing then-No. 25 LSU 40-13 last week.

–Field Level Media