Alabama isn’t used to being out of the national championship picture this time of year.
But yet here’s where the Crimson Tide stand as they prepare to host Austin Peay on Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Alabama (8-2), ranked No. 8 in the latest College Football Playoff poll that was released late Tuesday night, has lost multiple games in the regular season for only the fourth time since Nick Saban became the Tide’s coach in 2007.
With Georgia and LSU locked in to play for the Southeastern Conference title and Tennessee also ranked ahead of them, the Crimson Tide seem to have little left to play for barring some upsets in the coming weeks aside from perhaps a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game.
Games like Saturday’s are a chance to evaluate its roster and perhaps begin to look toward the future with the transfer portal opening after the regular season and players soon making decisions on whether they will declare for the NFL Draft.
In the present, Saban was pleased with seeing his team pull off a 30-24 victory at Ole Miss this past weekend. Quarterback Bryce Young, one of those players who could choose to move on and try to go pro in the coming weeks, led Alabama by throwing for 209 yards and three touchdowns on 21 of 33 attempts.
Alabama converted all four of its red zone opportunities and its defense stopped the Rebels three times in the final quarter.
“It was great to see our players happy and excited to be celebrating a win, a really good win for them, after getting behind in the game, 17-7,” Saban said on Monday. “To come back and sort of play the way we’re capable of playing and do things with sort of a relentless competitive sort of spirit and enthusiasm and togetherness as a team, I think was great.”
The Crimson Tide can take a long look at its personnel against this week’s FCS opponent before the Iron Bowl next week.
Austin Peay will face Alabama for the first time in what will be the culmination of a three-game road trip for the Governors (7-3), who are finishing up their first season in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Austin Peay won its first two games on the trip at North Alabama and Kennesaw State and are still battling for a spot in the upcoming FCS playoffs.
The Governors scored 28 unanswered points to rally for a 31-14 win over Kennesaw State – the conference’s preseason favorite. Austin Peay has been led all season by its stingy defense as it hopes to make it five consecutive seasons advancing to the playoffs (not counting the 2020 season).
Austin Peay will naturally be a heavy underdog Saturday, but its coach Scotty Walden truly believes his team has done enough to earn a postseason berth.
“We are a playoff team,” Walden told reporters recently. “I know with all my heart and soul; we are a freaking playoff team. They just tell us where to go, you tell us to go to Maine, Vermont, or wherever the heck you want. The Govs are going to show up man, anyone anytime.
“We believe in our program. Pick us fifth, pick us sixth all you want preseason, we just knocked off the preseason number one team in this conference, and keep doubting us, because we like earning everything.”
–Field Level Media