Game Time: Noon ET
TV: SEC Network
How to watch online: WatchESPN
Odds: Alabama opened as a 41.5-point favorite. The line jumped up to 43, 43.5, and/or 44 points depending on where you look.
After getting a huge win on the road last week at Ole Miss, the No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0) returns to Tuscaloosa Saturday to take on Nick Saban’s alma mater, the Kent State Golden Flashes (1-2).
Saban was winning titles even back then when the Flashes won their only MAC title in 1972 with the efforts of him, Pro Football Hall of Famer Jack Lambert, as well as former MIzzou head coach Gary Pinkel. Kent State is a far cry from what it was then, but it’s a group that’ll play hard under Paul Haynes and will give the Tide their best shot.
Saturday’s game will be interesting as it’ll feature arguably the best offensive coordinator in college football against maybe the worst. Lane Kiffin has done a great job of managing the offense with true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts at the helm as the unit has averaged 230+ yards both in the air and on the ground. An area that Hurts needs to clean up is turnovers; he has three fumbles (two lost) and an interception in three games, and it’s hard to win in this league when you turn the football over, regardless of how good your defense is. The running game is in good hands with sophomore Damien Harris as he has 327 yards and a score on 36 carries, as well as a staggering 12.1 highlight yards per opportunity.
Meanwhile, Kent State’s offense is ran by Don Treadwell, who you may remember ran his alma mater Miami (OH) into the ground as head coach with the team averaging a little over 12 points per game in his last season in 2013. KSU’s offense has been pretty rough this season as it has averaged under 300 yards per game with less than 140 yards through the air. Throw in the 12 sacks and six turnovers, and you’ve got a team that will likely struggle to get anything going on that Alabama defense.
However, these are two defenses that like to get after it as the Tide has recorded 10 sacks and five turnovers while the Golden Flashes have nine sacks and six turnovers. Jonathan Allen is a wrecking ball for Alabama up front with three sacks, two pass breakups, and an interception, and he’ll have a big day against Kent State’s offensive line. Granted, KSU hasn’t played elite competition, but Terence Waugh already has five sacks this season and Hurts has to know where he is on every play.
If Alabama’s offense can play focused and mistake-free football, they’ll be able to cruise and get ready for SEC play next week. However, if the Tide has a hangover after Ole Miss and comes out sloppy, this could be a game that can become a defensive dogfight for a good chunk of it until the Tide’s athletes take over.