The heat is on!
The No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (1-0) faces New Mexico State (0-1) Saturday in a mid-afternoon game at Bryant-Denny Stadium with temperatures that could be in the high 90s. The heat might be the biggest issue for Nick Saban’s team, which is favored by 55-1/2 points.
Alabama will be more focused on execution than its opponent after failing to score in the opening quarter against Duke.
Saban, as always, talked about how much respect he has for New Mexico State. He also brought up an unusual analogy for early season challenges: Etch A Sketch.
“I mean, if we go Etch A Sketch with a player, that means he didn’t remember anything from camp, he didn’t remember anything from last week and we’re starting all over (and) we’re in trouble,” Saban said. “But it’s not that they don’t know, it’s the ability to stay focused, and that’s going to be a challenge for us and something that we need to continue to work on.
“And distractions can’t bother you. I don’t care if it’s the weather, I don’t care if it’s where you’re playing. External factors cannot affect players’ ability to stay focused and to perform and do their job at the level that we would like.”
New Mexico State opened with a 58-7 loss to No. 22 Washington State and faces an even bigger challenge. The Aggies have lost their last three games and five straight away from home.
Of course, the always zoned-in Saban isn’t known for relaxing at all for a lesser opponent. The trick is making sure his players — and the fans who have to decide whether to brave the heat — follow suit.
Here are some other things to look for in the New Mexico State-Alabama game:
Bama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa could have a chance for some big plays however long he’s in the game. Washington State quarterbacks burned New Mexico State for 507 passing yards and six touchdowns. Tide receiver Jerry Jeudy is coming off a huge game against Duke.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
New Mexico State: RB/RS Jason Huntley led the nation with three kickoff returns for touchdowns last season. He also produced 500-plus yards both rushing and receiving.
Alabama: RB Najee Harris might not get a lot of carries if the game goes as expected, but this game does represent a chance to get the running game going.
This is a chance for the Aggies’ top players to see how they stack up against one of the nation’s elite programs. That includes halfback Jason Huntley, who returned three kickoffs for touchdowns last season and topped 500 yards both rushing and receiving. Linebacker Javahn Fergurson led the nation in tackles per game last season.
FACTS & FIGURES
Alabama is 4-5 against independent teams, with all the losses coming against Notre Dame. … The Tide has won 17 straight home openers, going 12-0 under Saban. Saban is 21-2 in a season’s first home game as a head coach. Alabama has also won 83 consecutive games against unranked teams, the longest streak in FBS history. … New Mexico State allowed 618 total yards against Washington State, including 507 passing. … New Mexico State comes into the game on a three-game losing streak dating to last season.
AP Only 2019