Time: 2:30 p.m. CT/3:30 p.m. ET
Watch Online: WatchESPN
Spread: Alabama opened as 45-point favorites. The line “shrunk” to 43/44 points.
O/U: 52 (or 52.5, 53, location pending)
Series History: The two teams have never met before Saturday’s encounter. Whether they’ll want to after Saturday? Time will tell.
Saturday’s matchup between the Fresno State Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide pit teams No. 96 and No. 1 in S&P+ against each other. The Bulldogs were able to jump up 13 spots after sitting at 109th in the preseason rankings. That tends to happen after you win 66-0. Sure, it was against Incarnate Word. But they were nothing if not efficient on offense. And pitching that kind of shutout will have you taking leaps like that.
Alabama, naturally, remained No. 1 after their dazzling performance against FSU. Their defense is currently 1st in S&P+, and the margin between them and 2nd place Michigan is 6.0. For reference, the gap between the 2nd-place Wolverines and 13th/14th-place Miami and Iowa is... 5.8. The Tide defense looked dominant against what was the 2nd-ranked team in S&P+ last week. That shouldn’t surprise you.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
MORE PROGRESSION FOR HURTS
In his season debut, the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year played well enough against a vaunted FSU defense. Hurts went 10-18 through the air for only 96 yards. A hearty amount came on a long TD pass to Calvin Ridley.
By S&P+, Fresno State’s defense merely ranks 91st in the country as of now even after their 66-0 shutout. Hurts will certainly have an easier test ahead of him as opposed to going against two future pros in Derwin James and Tarvarus McFadden last week. As a result, we should see more progression from him this time around in Tuscaloosa.
CHASON SEES A DIFFICULTY INCREASE
Quarterback Chason Virgil had it easy against Incarnate Word last week. The sophomore from Mesquite, Texas threw for 246 yards and a touchdown while going 16-29 in the air. Needless to say... his work is cut out for him this week against the ‘Bama secondary. We don’t need to go into the superlatives - there are far too many already used for them. It’s likely that this could be the best defense Virgil will see... ever, so we’ll see how he and the Bulldog offense responds.
SO, WHAT HAPPENS?
Okay, but honestly, it may be fun to see Jeff Tedford coach against Alabama. Tedford has been around the block more than once, obviously. But Tedford is likely to be super overmatched here.
Prediction: Alabama 42, Fresno State 6