Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Florida Atlantic Owls Complete Game Preview
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After an opening game against a power-five opponent, the Alabama football team opens a stretch of two games against lower, group-of-five teams. This weekend it’s Florida Atlantic, which is fresh off of a 55-7 blowout loss to Nebraska.
It’ll give the Crimson Tide a chance to settle down and work on some areas of improvement before Florida comes to town to open SEC play.
Just don’t tell Alabama coach Nick Saban that.
“Why does the external factor of who you're playing have anything to do with how you play?” Saban said. “That means if we're playing against Michael Jordan, we play our best game, if we're playing against another old basketball player, then we play just like another old basketball player? Is that your thinking on this? Because it's not mine. If it's our players' thinking, I can tell you right now I'm going to be pretty pissed about it.”
Here’s everything you need to know:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 6
Time: 11:00 a.m. CT
Place: Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama
TV: SEC Network
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, ESPN 106.3 FM
Spread: Alabama by 40-41, according to Vegas Insider.
Alabama Keys to Victory
Don’t Overcomplicate Things
After a hectic opener on the defensive side of the ball, Week 2 is all about getting back to basics against an overmatched opponent. Cornerback play and communication should be the top two priorities for Alabama.
Manage the Two-Quarterback System
Alabama will see both Blake Sims and Jake Coker under center in this game, a departure from the opener when Sims got every meaningful snap. That could disrupt offensive rhythm. The Crimson Tide offense will have to adjust to both players on the fly as they come in and out.
Florida Atlantic Keys to Victory
Get Stars Back Healthy
Quarterback Jaquez Johnson and cornerback D’Joun Smith were both hurt in the Owls’ loss to Nebraska, and their status is still up in the air, according to Chuck King of fauowlaccess.com.
“I don't foresee them practicing tomorrow, could see either or both practicing Wednesday, Thursday or a game-day decision,” coach Charlie Partridge said, per King.
FAU will need two of its best players back to have a chance at the upset.
Take Advantage of Quarterback Mistakes
With Saban saying that both Sims and Coker should play in this game, the Crimson Tide could be dealing with some inconsistencies on offense when one comes in and the other goes out.
The Owls would do well to capitalize on any errors that come about as a result, like bad timing or miscommunication with the receivers.
Alabama Players to Watch
He’s still the great unknown on the Alabama offense, as he hasn’t played significant game time since high school. He’ll get that chance on Saturday.
Coker still has a very real chance to win the Crimson Tide quarterback job and could take the next step in doing so on Saturday.
The preseason All-SEC inside linebacker will return from a one-game holdout due to a “minor NCAA infraction.” The issue for DePriest in this game won’t be level of competition—it'll be conditioning. He missed a lot of fall camp with a knee injury and is still getting up to speed in that department. Alabama will need him at full go in two weeks when it faces the Gators.
Florida Atlantic Players to Watch
Partridge said after the Nebraska game that the Owls quarterback should be back for Saturday’s game, according to Nate Taylor of the Sun Sentinel. Johnson led FAU to an opening-drive score, the team’s only points of the game, using an uptempo attack.
OK, FAU doesn’t have West Virginia or Oklahoma’s talent, but the Owls need their quarterback back to have a chance at operating their offense effectively.
The senior linebacker led FAU in tackles with nine against the Cornhuskers. He’ll be charged with getting the defense back on track after giving up 784 total yards of offense to Nebraska.
What They're Saying
Saban noted Jaquez Johnson’s importance in FAU’s offense:
Florida Atlantic had a pretty good year last year, and really got off to a pretty good start against Nebraska, believe it or not. The quarterback got hurt about the 26th play of the game and then they weren't nearly as good after that, because he is probably the center of what they do and is a very, very effective player. Last year he was the leading passer, leading rusher, leading in a lot of categories.
Guard Arie Kouandjio, on FAU giving up so many yards last week:
I didn’t even know that statistic. Today is the first day that we’re focusing on Florida Atlantic. You know, what happened last game with them is, I mean, it’s not the game that we’re about to play. It’s about us. We’re a different team than they played. There’s no telling what they’re going to do. We have to respect them and we have to take them on, as we would do any other team.
Kirk, on the defensive struggles, per Taylor:
We had a lot of misfits, not fitting plays correctly," linebacker Andrae Kirk said. "We didn't do a very good job. We got to really focus on the fundamentals of our game: our tackling, our run fits. We've got to really focus, because the little details are what killed us.
Partridge, on how he’ll evaluate Johnson and Smith’s injuries, per King:
I'll want to get a feel for how strong they are and can they protect themselves,” Partridge said. “Can they go out there and when they take on some impact, whether it's with the ground or it's with a person, are they going to be safe where we don't re-injure it or injure it further?
Alabama 42, Florida Atlantic 0
Don’t expect a letdown in this one. Nick Saban will get his players to come out hungry and motivated against a lesser team. Next week could be a different story, though, with two straight non-competitive games.
The quarterbacks will both play well and only add fuel to the fiery quarterback debate among fans and media. On the scoreboard, though, Alabama has no problem on Saturday.
Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.