Alabama endured the toughest part of its regular-season schedule, but the Crimson Tide face another top-10 opponent Saturday – sort of. The Crimson Tide hopes to avoid a major upset and maintain or improve upon their No. 2 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings when they host FCS No. 8 Charleston Southern.
Alabama has won seven straight – including four victories against teams ranked in the top 20 at the time of the game – to take charge of the SEC West and put itself in position for a return trip to the national semifinals. The Crimson Tide have struggled in recent years against option-based offenses, though, so coach Nick Saban is wary of the Buccaneers’ potent ground game. “This is going to be a challenging game for us from a preparation standpoint,” Saban told reporters. “This is a good team that we’re playing, and hopefully our players will have the kind of respect they need to go out and play good, positive, winning football.” Charleston Southern, which clinched the Big South title with an eighth straight victory last week over Liberty, is 0-16 all-time against FBS opponents.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, SEC Network. LINE: Alabama -38.5
ABOUT CHARLESTON SOUTHERN (9-1): The Bucs are headed to the FCS playoffs for the first time after finishing unbeaten in Big South play, and their only loss was a 44-16 setback at Troy on Sept. 12. Charleston Southern leads the FCS in total defense, allowing 252.9 yards per game, and has held seven opponents under 300 total yards. Darius Hammond (734 yards, 6 TDs) and Mike Holloway (515 yards, 9 TDs) lead the strong option attack, though quarterback Austin Brown (1,356 pass yards, 11 TDs, 5 INTs) can be effective in the rushing or passing game.
ABOUT ALABAMA (9-1): The Crimson Tide have been dominant at the line of scrimmage during their winning streak, stifling opposing offenses while star tailback Derrick Henry runs wild. Henry (1,458 yards, 19 TDs) ranks second nationally in rushing yards after going over 200 in three of the past four games. The defense has been outstanding, holding opponents to 2.49 yards per carry and forcing 20 turnovers, including an SEC-best 14 interceptions.
1. Alabama has scored in the first half of 113 consecutive games dating to 2007, the longest active streak in the nation.
2. The Crimson Tide have forced opponents to go three-and-out 47 times during their seven-game winning streak.
3. Charleston Southern has rushed for at least 159 yards in every game this season and topped 200 yards seven times, while Alabama has allowed only two opponents to surpass 100 yards on the ground.
PREDICTION: Alabama 31, Charleston Southern 13