ALABAMA (6-0, 3-0) vs. SOUTH CAROLINA (5-1, 2-1)
10.17.09 TIME: 6:45 p.m. TV: ESPN
Never Satisfied Nick Saban has made it his creed, and the Crimson Tide has followed him. Avoiding complacency is no longer a problem at Alabama.
• Etched in stone: 1964
• Position Matchups
2009 Schedule Date
GameDay Publish Date
10/17/09 South Carolina
11/14/09 Mississippi State Starkville, Miss. 11/12/09 11/21/09 UT Chattanooga
ON THE INSIDE
GameDay 2009 • October 16
Stat of the
week Alabama has not lost a Homecoming game in eight years. The last loss came in 2001 against LSU, as Nick Saban and the Tigers defeated the Crimson Tide 35-21 to ruin Homecoming.
4 | NEVER SATISFIED
Alabama’s attention to the little things has played a huge part in bringing the program back to national prominence. By Jason Galloway
CW | Jerrod Seaton
3 | PLAYSTATION SIMULATION
8 | BUY OR SELL
It wasn’t pretty, but the Crimson Tide found a way to upend South Carolina, improving Alabama’s record to 6-1 overall and 4-0 in the SEC on the simulated season.
What’s the best one-loss team in the country? Which teams have the best chance to finish 2009 unbeaten? We discuss the hot questions in this week’s Buy or Sell.
Alabama Crimson Tide (6-0) vs. USC Gamecocks (5-1)
By Will Nevin
9 | ETCHED IN STONE
13 | POSITION MATCHUPS
This week’s Etched in Stone takes a look at the most acclaimed player in the history of the Alabama program and the season that defined his legacy in Crimson Tide lore.
South Carolina comes into Saturday’s game with a No. 22 ranking, but how do they really match up against the Tide for this Homecoming game?
• Field: Bryant-Denny Stadium • Place: Tuscaloosa • Time: 6:45 p.m. • TV: ESPN • Radio: 1420 AM (Eli Gold, play-by-play; Phil Savage, color analyst; Barry Krauss, sideline reporter)
GAMEDAY STAFF • Jason Galloway, GameDay editor • Spencer White, assistant GameDay editor • Amanda Peterson, editor-in-chief • Will Nevin, managing editor • Brandee Easter, design editor • Emily Johnson, assistant design editor • Aaron Gertler, graphics editor • Jerrod Seaton, photo editor • Katie Bennett, assistant photo editor Cover photo: Katie Bennett
By Spencer White
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PICKS, POLLS AND PERSPECTIVE
October 16 • GameDay 2009
CW PICKS | WEEK 7 Jason Galloway
Asst. GameDay editor
Senior sports reporter
CW managing editor Advertising manager
#22 South Carolina at #2 Bama #8 Cincinnati at #21 USF #20 Oklahoma vs #3 Texas #11 Iowa at Wisconsin #6 USC at #25 Notre Dame Texas Tech at #15 Nebraska #4 Va. Tech at #19 Ga. Tech Season record
UA students talk about their expectations for the upcoming Crimson Tide game. CW | Tori Gordon
Chudy Azuogu Freshman Biology “The South Carolina game will be another opponent to prepare ourselves for a national championship.” Shelby Whitten Freshman Elementary education “Itʼll be a great homecoming win.”
Mark Smith Junior Finance “Roll Tide.”
Laura Kathryn Murphy Sophomore Special education “Weʼre going to win.”
Drew Fithian Freshman “South Carolina is good, but we are better. Defense wins championships.” Sarah Fowler Freshman Accounting “I think the Tide will roll all over South Carolina.”
1. Florida (50)
1. Florida (53)
2. Alabama (10)
2. Texas (1)
3. Alabama (5)
4. Virginia Tech
4. Virginia Tech
5. Boise State
6. Boise State
7. Ohio State
7. Ohio Stae
13. Penn State
14. Penn State
14. Oklahoma State
16. Oklahoma State
19. Georgia Tech
20. Georgia Tech
21. South Florida
21. South Florida
22. South Carolina
22. South Carolina
25. Notre Dame
25. Notre Dame
PS3 SAYS | ALABAMA 25, SOUTH CAROLINA 17 BY WILL NEVIN Managing Editor The South Carolina Gamecocks came to Tuscaloosa with an average to maybe aboveaverage defense. The Tide, however, made it look like the second coming of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Steel Curtain defense of the 1970s as Bama put up only 188 yards of total offense while still managing to find a way to win in a 25-17 brutal slugfest. Alabama, or perhaps the officials, opened the scoring 50 seconds into the game when the NCAA 2010 screenshot Gamecocks were called for holding in the end Julio Jones makes a leaping catch in Alabamaʼs zone, resulting in a safety and two points for 25-17 simulated victory. the Tide. Bama continued the scoring in the second quarter when Baron Huber bounced ing touchdown, but Alabama would miss the around right end for a 2-yard touchdown run. two-point conversion to take a 22-10 lead. The Terry Grant, subbing for an injured Mark Gamecocks answered back with a Stephen Ingram, scored the Tide’s second touchdown Garcia touchdown pass to wideout Kevin on a 13-yard run to stretch Alabama’s lead to White to close to within five at 22-17. Alabama, 16-0. As time expired in the half, Gamecock however, snuffed out the hopes of an upset by kicker Spencer Lanning got the visitors on recovering the ensuing onside kick, and Leigh the board with a 40-yard field goal, cutting the Tiffin would close the scoring with a booming Tide’s lead to 16-3. 54-yard field goal. South Carolina got closer to closing the gap Despite the victory, the Tide was outgained with a 1-yard touchdown run by halfback Eric in total offense (212 yards to 188 yards) and first Baker, leaving the Gamecocks down 16-10. The downs (South Carolina’s nine to Bama’s seven). Tide responded in the fourth quarter as quarWith the win, Alabama improves to 6-1 (4-0) terback Greg McElroy scrambled for a rush- on the simulated season.
GameDay 2009 • October 16
• Passing: Greg McElroy, 10-of-19, 81 yds, 1 rushing TD
• Rushing: Terry Grant, 10 rushes, 58 yds, 1 TD
• Receiving: Mike McCoy, 4 receptions, 21 yds
• Top Defensive Performer: Rolando McClain, 5 tackles
South Carolina • Passing: Stephen Garcia, 18-of-24, 160 yds, 1 TD
• Rushing: Eric Baker, 11 rushes, 31 yds, 1 TD
• Receiving: Weslye Saunders, 4 receptions, 34 yds
• Top Defensive Performer: Eric Norwood, 9 tackles
Alabama runs out onto the ﬁeld before its game against Kentucky two weeks ago. The Crimson Tideʼs last few games have been prime examples of Alabamaʼs ability to take every team on its schedule seriously. CW | Jerrod Seaton
GameDay 2009 • October 16
No David for this GOLIATH Ever since Alabama lost a horrid game to Louisiana-Monroe in 2007, the Crimson Tide has taken no one for granted. That weekly sense of urgency has been at the core of Alabama’s surge back to college football’s elite. BY JASON GALLOWAY GameDay Editor
reg McElroy sat alone in the Alabama film room Sunday evening, critiquing his performance in the Crimson Tide’s 22-3 victory over Ole Miss the day before and preparing for the challenges of South Carolina’s defense. The tranquility of the room maintained itself as Mark Ingram entered to watch his own film. The sophomore running back popped in the Ole Miss tape and immediately jumped to one specific play. He watched it. Rewound it. Watched it again. Rewound it again. Over and over, he watched the same play. It was not his 36-yard touchdown run in the closing seconds of the first half, nor was it his 25-yard scamper in the third quarter that moved the Tide inside the 5-yard line. Again and again, Ingram watched the man sitting next to him get
dragged down 11 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Alabama had already built a 16-3 lead on the Rebels, and Ingram ended up converting a first down later in the series. But he had missed a block on the play, perhaps the only thing he did wrong in his 172-yard performance. “That’s the only play I’ve been thinking about,” Ingram told McElroy. “That’s the only play that’s been bothering me. I’ve been thinking about that play since it happened.” Of all the plays Ingram could have remembered from that game, a missed blocking assignment when the game was already in control was the one that lingered in his mind. “It’s always easy to look at the plays you do
good on,” he said, “but when a play doesn’t work because you missed your blocking assignment, it sticks with you more than those good plays.” That is what Alabama head coach Nick Saban has addressed every week since arriving at the Capstone — the mental strain of always remaining unsatisfied. Saban teaches Avoiding Complacency 101, and based on Ingram’s film session Sunday and the Tide’s 18-2 mark the last season and a half, his players are paying attention. “You’re kind of climbing a mountain,” Saban said. “The higher you get, the more treacherous it is and the more focus you need, the more discipline and execution, and things are a lot more critical if you make a mistake. I think our
October 16 • GameDay 2009
players understand that. They need to understand it.” They didn’t always understand that. Saban’s first year at Alabama in 2007 epitomizes everything the former national champion preaches. A four-game losing streak, including a loss to Louisiana-Monroe, after starting the season 6-2 could not be a better illustration of the identity Saban does not want his team to have. “[When] we lost to LouisianaMonroe, it definitely put us in a position where we didn’t want to overlook any team and any competition that we had coming,” said senior linebacker Cory Reamer. The players had not bought into Saban’s system. Veteran players on that 2007 squad, like senior defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry, said as much after the season. He said the young guys were just beginning to buy in, and that 2008 would be much different than the pitfalls of 2007. The statements seemed pedestrian at the time because no one knew yet the severe truth they had.
“When [Saban] first got here, he just said hard work’s going to lead us to where we want to be,” said linebacker Rolando McClain, who was a freshman during the 2007 season. “We really didn’t buy into it my freshman year. But now, we know the hard work is going to make us good, so that’s what we do, work hard. We don’t take anything for granted.” The Tide’s freshmen and sophomores on this year’s team don’t have the motivation from a season like 2007, but the younger players still understand the negative effects that season produced. “The older guys learned the hard way,” Ingram said, “so we don’t want to get punished in order to try and get refocused and re-motivated. We just want to keep getting better each week, keep improving each week as a team, without having a loss.” Saban doesn’t need an entire season to remind himself why he remains uptight about remaining consistent week in and week out. “I remember every play that we’ve ever been beat on since the flood,” Saban said. “I can give
Louisiana Monroe players celebrate after shocking Alabama in 2007. Ever since that upset, the Tide has not taken any opponent lightly. AP you chapter and verse on what happened on third-and-12 in the Pittsburgh Steelers-Cleveland Browns game a long time ago when we messed up and they scored a touchdown (Saban was Cleveland’s defensive coordinator in the early 1990s).” In Saban’s mind, it’s the bad plays that matter moving forward, and he’s forced that mindset into his players. That’s why Ingram kept watching an Ole Miss defender throw McElroy to the ground, the man Ingram was
supposed to block, the day after he had 28 carries for 172 yards. It’s also why Saban always praises his upcoming opponent, no matter who it is, in the opening statement of his news conference every Monday, and why much of what he talked about during the postgame of last week’s dominating SEC road victory focused on the Tide’s red zone inefficiency and defensive inconsistency. But most importantly, it’s why Alabama is undefeated and once again a national powerhouse.
BUY OR SELL SPENCER WHITE Assistant GameDay Editor
GameDay 2009 • October 16
VIRGINIA TECH IS THE BEST ONE-LOSS TEAM
JASON GALLOWAY GameDay Editor
Virginia Tech was a miracle touchdown away from being in the discussion for the best two-loss team in the country. Tech has played well this season against tough competition, including three ranked teams in Alabama, Nebraska and Miami, but I think, despite the Washington loss, if USC and the Hokies played today, the Trojans would win the game.
While the Hokies’ only loss is to arguably the best squad in the country, USC fell to a rather average Washington team. Tech also blew out Miami, who has been impressive enough to stay in the top 10 after the beat down, while the Trojans’ blow out over California looks less impressive after the Bearcats lost by an even bigger margin to Oregon the next week.
ONLY AN SEC TEAM WILL FINISH UNDEFEATED
BUY For this to not happen, Cincinnati and Boise State would have to get lucky by either matching up with each other in a BCS bowl after finishing the regular season undefeated or drawing an opponent in the BCS who upset someone in a conference championship game (like a Boston College). I don’t foresee either of those circumstances, and I think if Texas wins out, the Longhorns will lose to the SEC winner.
The four teams with the best chances, apart from Alabama and Florida, are Texas, Iowa, Cincinnati and Boise State. Texas will lose in the BCS Championship, Iowa will likely lose to Ohio State in November, Cincinnati will lose to Virginia Tech/Miami in the Orange Bowl, and I just don’t see Boise State having the guns to defeat whoever loses December’s epic SEC Championship match up. Top: CW | Katie Bennett Above: MCT Campus
ETCHED IN STONE | 1964
October 16 • GameDay 2009
The legend of Joe Willie BY SPENCER WHITE Assistant GameDay Editor Beaver Falls, Pa., is a pretty unremarkable town. Located 30 miles outside the city of Pittsburgh, Beaver Falls’ tiny population once served as one of many outlets for the heavy steelmanufacturing area. It was a bluecollar town, and nobody who was unfortunate enough to be born there was ever meant to leave. But Joe Namath would. Namath was the star athlete of the town, excelling in football, basketball and baseball. Even at the high school level, his prodi-
gious talents were legendary in the Beaver County area; Namath regularly dunked on the basketball court, and was offered contracts by six Major League Baseball teams upon graduation. But his mother insisted on the troubled Namath receiving a college education, and his best chance to accomplish this was as a quarterback for a Division-I football team. His exceptional skills at both passing and running brought him a great deal of attention, including offers from the likes of Penn State, Ohio State, Notre Dame and the University of Alabama. Namath initially rejected these
powers in favor of the University of Maryland, but was denied admission due to a subpar SAT score. UA head coach Bear Bryant, acting on a tip from the Terrapins head coach, seized advantage and convinced Namath to make the trek to Tuscaloosa to play for the Crimson Tide. Bryant would later call the signing of Namath “the best coaching decision I ever made.” Namath was a true superstar of the college game. He was an unparalleled athlete for the time, with a strong arm and quick feet that helped redefine the possibilities of the quarterback position. As a true sophomore starter for the
GameDay 2009 • October 16 Tide in 1962, Namath put on a masterful show, setting new Alabama records for passing yards (1,192) and touchdowns (13). Namath also recorded 321 rushing yards on 70 carries in leading the Tide to a 10-1 record and a near repeat championship. “Joe Willie,” as he became known around campus, quickly adapted to the Southern lifestyle, adopting an accent and becoming quite popular with the Capstone coeds. His funloving style, however, clashed with Bryant’s strict and disciplined style. In 1963, after being seen drinking a beer at a Tuscaloosa bar (against team policy), Namath was suspended for the final two games of his junior year. Namath accepted the suspension, respecting the rules of the man who he would later say “taught me the meaning of integrity.” Namath returned to the starting role in his senior season, 1964, and led the Tide through an undefeated regular season and the AP and UPI national championships, then awarded before bowl games. More remarkable was the conditions under which the fearless team captain completed the campaign. In the fourth game of the season, a 21-0 victory over North Carolina State, Namath received the first of what would become many knee injuries. The pain was intense and led to fluid buildup that required draining at regular intervals. The gritty Namath would not undergo surgery until the end of the season. The injury worsened over the course of the season, as the once nimble Namath became slowly hobbled by the pain. Unable to perform at his peak, he was benched for the
start of the 1965 Orange Bowl, in which the Tide took on the Texas Longhorns. After falling behind in the first half, Namath came off the bench, with only one good knee, to put on an offensive show in Miami. Forced to stand in the pocket and fire pass after pass due to his immobility, the All-American completed 18 of 37 throws for 255 yards and two touchdowns to pull the Tide to a 21-17 deficit with just a few minutes remaining. Summoning up the last of his willpower, Namath charged the Tide down the field, peppering the Longhorn secondary with wellplaced bullets to crimson jerseys, until Alabama stood at the 1-yard line with one second left on the clock. The gutsy Namath, calling on his own number, took the snap and plunged into the wall of lineman in front. Despite rising from the bottom of the pile with chalk on his jersey from the goal line, it was declared by the referees that Namath did not score and the Tide lost the game. The next day, Namath signed a $400,000 dollar contract with the New York Jets of the AFL. The contract was the richest in sports history at the time, and Namath would earn every dollar of it, leading the burgeoning franchise to a monumental upset of the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III and becoming the shining star of professional football. Bryant never had any doubts, later calling Namath “the greatest athlete I ever coached.” Namath was equally touched by the legendary Tide coach, breaking down into tears during his
Above: Joe Namath makes a leaping throw during a 1964 game. Left: Namath shakes hands with sophomore receiver Ray Perkins. Perkins would go on to coach the Tide in the 1980s. Bryant Museum induction speech to the Pro Football Hall of Fame at the mention of his mentor. Thirty-two years after his last game in a Tide uniform, Namath
finally earned his degree from the University of Alabama in 2007, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies at the age of 64.
October 16 • GameDay 2009
Compiled by Britton Lynn Sports Reporter
Georgia at Vanderbilt
Arkansas at #1 Florida
Time: 11:21 a.m. on SEC Network Series: Georgia leads 50-18-2 What to watch for: Georgia has won its last two games against Vanderbilt. Although the Bulldogs just came off a loss to Tennessee in Knoxville, Georgia’s Brandon Boykin has been on fire. In last week’s game, he returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and had three tackles. But the Bulldogs’ defense has given up 37 or more points in half of their games this season, and their offense has had only four touchdowns in their last three games. The Commodores have been struggling on offense, especially during an overtime loss to Army Saturday. The team has struggled with penalties, having received 24 in the last two games.
Time: 2:30 p.m. on CBS Series: Florida leads 7-1 What to watch for: The only time Arkansas beat Florida was back in 1982. The Razorbacks better watch out for Florida’s defense, especially after they held LSU to three points. Senior linebacker Brandon Spikes is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week. The Gators’ defense also collected an interception for the 17th straight game, the nation’s longest streak, and have only allowed two touchdowns all season. Arkansas comes off a big win against Auburn last week, partly because its defense started playing like a top unit. Razorback quarterback Ryan Mallett has been almost flawless with 13 touchdowns, 1,422 passing yards and only three interceptions.
Kentucky at Auburn
UAB at Ole Miss
Time: 6:30 p.m. on ESPNU Series: Auburn leads 24-5-1 What to watch for: Auburn takes a 15-game winning streak into Saturday’s game With Wildcat quarterback Mike Hartline falling to a knee injury last week in their loss against South Carolina, Kentucky backup Will Fidler takes over against Auburn. The Wildcats’ last game was close, partially because senior defensive tackle Corey Peters, who won the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week, had an exceptional performance. Although the Tigers are coming off a loss to Arkansas, they have been successful in moving the ball and scoring points against most teams they have played. Auburn running back Ben Tate has been a major threat. He had 228 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns against Arkansas.
Time: 6 p.m. on Fox Series: First meeting What to watch for: Ole Miss might have lost against Alabama last week, but the Rebels have a lot of potential. Ole Miss junior safety Johnny Brown had a game-high 10 tackles, seven of which were solo, against the Crimson Tide. Rebel quarterback Jevan Snead completed only 11 of his 34 attempts against Alabama and had four interceptions, but if he can get his act together, they should start playing like the team that beat Florida last year. UAB quarterback Joe Webb, on the other hand, has played mediocre with six touchdowns, five interceptions and 644 passing yards so far this season. Blazers tight end Jeffery Anderson leads UAB in receiving yards with 179 and has three touchdowns on the year.
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Saban has changed Tide culture Remember 6-7? Remember the Indepedence Bowl loss? Remember six straight losses to Auburn, five consecutive defeats by the LSU Tigers and dropping 10 of 12 to the Tennessee Volunteers? Funny what a difference three years can make. Not enough has been said about the accomplishments of Nick Saban since he has arrived at the Capstone. Without making the comparison that Tide fans are dying to bring up, the former LSU and Miami Dolphins head coach has revitalized and rejuvenated the Alabama program in a way that hasn’t been seen since the arrival of a certain houndstoothclad legend. All the signs are there. Should the No. 3 Tide take care of business against South Carolina Saturday, Saban’s record at Alabama will be 26-8. In Mike Shula’s four years as
SPENCER WHITE Assistant GameDay Editor Saban’s predecessor, his career record was 26-23. If the Tide wins on Homecoming, it will clinch a 7-0 record and third consecutive winning season. The last time Alabama had three winning seasons in a row? 1994-96. Last season, during the Tide’s surprising 12-2 run, Alabama defeated the big trio of Auburn, LSU and Tennessee. The last time the Tide beat all three in one season? 1994. Jay Barker’s senior year was also the last time Alabama fin-
ished a regular season campaign undefeated before 2008. Following a 6-6 regular season in 2007, the Tide has won 18 consecutive regular season games. Including the 2007 30-24 Independence Bowl victory over Colorado, Alabama in its last 21 games. Saban’s impact goes far beyond the numbers. He has transformed the entire culture of the Alabama program, turning a collection of dreamers reminiscing on past glories into a hungry and focused group bent on the steps to success. No more is there talk of winning championships or moving up in the rankings. Every game is a new one, every opponent the most difficult of the season. The Tide’s strength and conditioning regime, nicknamed the fourth-quarter program, has produced tangible results on the field. A group that never had a fourth quarter comeback under Shula has
become a collection of second-half warriors under Saban’s watch. The Tide has only lost one game after leading at halftime, the 41-34 loss against eventual national champions LSU in 2007, since his arrival. A program that had been crippled by probation and mediocre recruiting in the early portion of the 2000s was also revived. Saban has collected three consecutive top-10 recruiting classes, including back-to-back No. 1 classes in 2008 and 2009. New arrivals like Rolando McClain, Kareem Jackson, Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, Terrence Cody, Dont’a Hightower, Mark Barron and Trent Richardson have made their presence felt, contributing mightily to the Tide’s resurgence. But where Saban has separated himself is in the transformation of the young men already in the program. Seniors like Javier Arenas and Mike Johnson have bloomed
Continued on the next page
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October 16 • GameDay 2009
into players with NFL ability, and under Saban’s watch, Glen Coffee went from a back-up running back to a starter for the San Franscisco 49ers. The expectations at Alabama have always been high. The legacy of the men who have come before demands it. Their statues line the entrance to Bryant-Denny; Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, Gene Stallings and the Bear – the men who carved the tradition and glory of an entire state watch from their larger-than-life representations as another pushes their birthright to new heights. They patiently wait for another to join
their circle, in the empty spot that remains an eternal lure to those who seek the pressure-cooker of being the most powerful man in the state of Alabama. That is what Saban has become. Sure, UA Athletic Director Mal Moore and UA President Robert Witt are his bosses, but that’s just jargon. At this point, Saban makes four times their combined salary, and it’s a safe bet that Tide fans would make it 20 times if necessary. And he would be worth every penny. In an age where parity is greater than ever and no game is a
In an age where parity is greater than ever and no game is a cupcake, Saban has created a juggernaut in an unprecedented span.
cupcake, Saban has created a juggernaut in an unprecedented span. The Tide has talent and depth the likes of which can only be found in Gainesville and Pasadena, The Tide defense, always stingy, has become a feared unit of demons, scaring the daylights out of SEC quarterbacks and singlehandedly ruining Heisman campaigns. If you don’t believe that, talk to Knowshon Moreno, James Davis, Matthew Stafford, Jevan
Snead or Ryan Mallett. The Tide offense has become a diverse and dangerous group, with Ingram and Richardson leading a talented backfield and junior Greg McElroy showing signs of becoming the next great No. 12 to play for the Tide. Twelve is an interesting number in Tide lore. But at the rate the man from Fairmount, W. Va., is going, the new fad may become 13. And it may come faster than anyone thought.
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Position Matchups Although South Carolina’s defense is no pushover, Alabama seems to take the advantage in this week’s key matchups in the Crimson Tide’s ﬁrst home game since week four. ALABAMA OFFENSIVE LINE VS. SOUTH CAROLINA DEFENSIVE LINE Alabama’s offensive line is coming off a lackluster game, allowing the tenacious Ole Miss defensive front to reach quarterback Greg McElroy on what seemed like every dropback. The Crimson Tide’s front line must improve in protection this week against a defensive front that ranks second in the Southeastern Conference and 25th in the nation in sacks, as it would allow Alabama to better maintain balance in its offense.
EDGE CW | Jerrod Seaton
GREG MCELROY VS. SOUTH CAROLINA SECONDARY After a three-game home stretch in which McElroy accumulated 708 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions, he threw for less than 150 rushing yards in each game of a two-week road stint. Back in Bryant-Denny this Saturday, McElroy must bounce back to form against the third-best passing defense in the SEC. Senior Darian Stewart leads the fairly inexperienced Gamecock defense into Tuscaloosa.
KAREEM JACKSON VS. ALSHON JEFFERY Alshon Jeffery stands as the Gamecocks top deep threat, turning four of his 12 catches this year into touchdowns while displaying a gaudy 16.58 yards per catch average. Alabama is likely to put Kareem Jackson on the true freshman. Jackson got his first interception of the season in a critical moment of last week’s game against Ole Miss, and the junior has started to emerge as one of the top cornerbacks in the SEC.
EDGE CW | Katie Bennett
Mark Ingram, RB
Eric Norwood, LB
Ingram has been on a tear the last two games, piling up 312 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He’ll need to keep up his production against the Gamecocks, who rank 54th in the nation in rushing defense and are without their starting middle linebacker and defensive tackle for their trip to Tuscaloosa. Ingram needs to provide steady yards on the ground to allow Greg McElroy a chance to navigate his way through a tough South Carolina secondary.
Easily the most talented and dangerous player on the Gamecock defense, Norwood is among the best linebackers in the nation, possessing great speed and excellent tackling form. Spurrier will depend on Norwood to be his main pass rusher against the Tide, as well as the man to stop any Alabama running back who crosses the line of scrimmage. If he plays a career game on Saturday, it could spell doom for the Tide.
Drew Davis, RT
Stephen Garcia, QB
Davis likely will be matched up against the Gamecocks’ stud defensive end Cliff Matthews, and will need to keep the talented sack master in check to allow McElroy more time to operate in the pocket than he received last week. With South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier’s knack for taking risks, it’s a safe bet that South Carolina will bring a heavy and aggressive rush to confuse McElroy into making poor reads, and Davis will be a crucial part of attempting to slow it down.
After years of uncertainty at the quarterback position, it appears the Ol’ Ball Coach has finally found his man in sophomore Garcia. He has been impressive in the early going, completing 61 percent of his passes for 1,268 yards and nine touchdowns while only throwing three picks. However, Alabama is getting used to facing pretty good quarterbacks after games against Ryan Mallett and Jevan Snead, and Garcia will look to avoid their fate Saturday.
Terrance Cody, DT
Cliff Matthews, DE
Cody and the rest of the Tide defensive front did an excellent job exploiting Ole Miss’s weak offensive line last Saturday, and Alabama will need a similar dominating performance this week against a talented but inconsistent offense. Cody will be a major part of ensuring that the Gamecocks are forced into throwing situations, where Stephen Garcia has shown weakness under pressure, which the Tide defensive staff will undoubtably bring should Cody plug the middle well.
Matthews has been South Carolina’s terror off the edge this season, tallying seven tackles for loss and four sacks so far in 2009. A week after facing the Rebels’ Greg Hardy, Matthews could provide an even stiffer test for the Tide offensive line. If Matthews is able to get consistent penetration and get a hand in McElroy’s face or blow up a run in the backfield, it could make for a long Homecoming for Alabama.
LT LG C RG RT TE HB QB RB WR WR
77 78 73 75 79 84 85 12 22 8 4
James Carpenter (Jr.) Mike Johnson (Sr.) William Vlachos (So.) Barrett Jones (R-Fr.) Drew Davis (Sr.) Colin Peek (Sr.) Preston Dial (Jr.) Greg McElroy (Jr.) Mark Ingram (So.) Julio Jones (So.) Marquis Maze (So.)
DE DT DE JACK WILL MIKE SAM CB FS SS CB
95 62 97 32 35 25 13 3 27 4 28
Brandon Deaderick (Sr.) Terrence Cody (Sr.) Lorenzo Washington (Sr.) Eryk Anders (Sr.) Nico Johnson (Fr.) Rolando McClain (Jr.) Cory Reamer (Sr.) Kareem Jackson (Jr.) Justin Woodall (Sr.) Mark Barron (So.) Javier Arenas (Sr.)
SPECIAL TEAMS STARTERS K P PR KR
99 7 28 28 29
Leigh Tiffin (Sr.) P.J. Fitzgerald (Sr.) Javier Arenas (Sr.) Javier Arenas (Sr.) Terry Grant (Jr.)
LT LG C RG RT TE QB RB FB WR WR
76 74 57 55 66 88 5 31 47 1 9
Jarriel King (Jr.) Heath Batchelor (Jr.) Lemuel Jeanpierre (Sr.) T.J. Johnson (R-Fr.) Hutch Eckerson (Jr.) Weslye Saunders (Jr.) Stephen Garcia (So.) Kenny Miles (R-Fr.) Patrick DiMarco (Jr.) Alshon Jeffery (R-Fr.) More Brown (Sr.)
DE DT DT DE WLB MLB SPUR CB SS FS CB
98 95 91 83 40 41 26 5 24 17 12
Devin Taylor (R-Fr.) Nathan Pepper (Sr.) Ladi Ajiboye (Jr.) Cliff Matthews (Jr.) Eric Norwood (Sr.) Josh Dickerson (Jr.) Antonio Allen (So.) Stephon Gilmore (Fr.) Darian Stewart (Sr.) Chris Culliver (Jr.) C.C. Whitlock (So.)
SPECIAL TEAMS STARTERS K/P 34 Spencer Lanning (Jr.) PR 5 Stephon Gilmore (Fr.) KR 17 Chris Culliver (Jr.) 22 Bryce Sherman ( So.)