Alabama’s chances of earning a berth in the BCS national championship game seemed to improve last weekend as a couple of prior unbeatens fell.
That doesn’t mean much, however, to Nick Saban, who insists he is more worried about stopping Georgia Southern’s triple-option offense than figuring out his team’s chances of playing for a national title.
Led by the nation’s top defense, Saban’s third-ranked Crimson Tide look to slow down the high-powered Eagles on Saturday in their home finale.
Alabama’s hopes of playing for a second national title in three seasons took a hit with its 9-6 overtime loss to top-ranked LSU on Nov. 5. The Crimson Tide (9-1) managed to regroup with last Saturday’s 24-7 win over Mississippi State.
“There was a challenge presented to them after the difficult circumstances of last week,” Saban said. “And they responded.”
Making the win over the Bulldogs even sweeter, No. 3 Stanford and No. 5 Boise State both lost last Saturday, opening the door a bit for Alabama to play in the BCS title game if LSU or second-ranked Oklahoma State should fall. The Tide are third in the BCS standings.
“I don’t really care about that. I’ve been sitting in that room for two days now trying to get enough guys on the pitch guy,” Saban said Monday referring to Georgia Southern’s triple option. “All I know is we just need to take care of what we control, and what we control is how we play.”
Alabama consistently plays stellar defense.
The Tide, who have held 11 straight opponents to 14 points or less, are ranked first in the FBS in total yards (181.4 per game), rush yards (51.9) and scoring (7.1). The defense, led by linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw, will be faced with a new challenge this week, however.
Georgia Southern (9-1) is second in the FCS in rushing, averaging 320.4 yards.
“It will be challenging for the players, probably, to do something different,” Saban said. “They give you a lot of formation multiples, which makes it a little harder to adjust. They do a really good job of executing what they do. It takes a lot of discipline on defense for everybody to do what they’re supposed to do.”
The Eagles, who clinched the Southern Conference with last Saturday’s 31-10 victory over Wofford, lead the FCS with 37 rushing touchdowns and have six players that have run for at least 275 yards - led by Robert Brown’s 834.
By comparison, Alabama has three players that have topped the 275-yard rushing mark, but one of them is Trent Richardson.
Richardson, one of the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy, is seventh in the FBS with 1,205 yards on the ground and fifth with 18 rushing touchdowns. The junior, who ran for 127 yards on a career-high 32 attempts last Saturday, will face a Georgia Southern defense that is yielding an average of 167.7 rushing yards over its last six games.
Although Saban is trying to keep his team from looking past the Eagles to next week’s Iron Bowl against Auburn, a loss seems unlikely.
Alabama has won 24 of its last 25 home games against non-conference opponents, while Georgia Southern is 0-18 all-time against FBS schools.
“Nick Saban has proven himself as a football coach and you will get no argument that his teams are some of the best coached in college football,” coach Jeff Monken told the Eagles’ official website. “We’ve got a huge challenge on our hands just to be in the ballgame and not be completely embarrassed.
“They are so far superior at every position. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.”
It is likely Monken cracked a smile Sunday when his team received a vote in the AP poll for the first time in school history. The Eagles, who are second in the FCS coaches poll, are the first FCS team to receive a vote in the AP poll this season.
With its one vote, Georgia Southern now has a mere 1,379 fewer than Alabama.