Alabama opens its season on Saturday evening as a 28-point favorite on the road at Missouri. Here are the three keys to a Crimson Tide opening day victory:
By Steve Wright
Run the ball all day
Everyone is going to be rusty. That is just the nature of the beast in a season where preparation has been basically non-existent. While Mac Jones is certainly good enough to take over this game – and he may need to somewhere down the line this season – the best option is to keep things simple and run the ball.
The offensive line should be able to blast out of the blocks and the combination of Najee Harris and Brian Robinson in the backfield will be far too much for the Tigers to deal with. Look for ‘Bama to pound it away and come out on top.
The play of Dylan Moses
Having Moses back in the lineup is a huge win for Nick Saban. The middle linebacker missed the entire 2019 season and in many ways it is a shock to see him wear the colors of Alabama at all this fall as he could have either entered the 2020 NFL Draft or opted out to prepare for the 2021 draft.
He made 86 tackles as a sophomore and had an elite Pro Football Focus tackling grade of 90.3. This game isn’t going to be the biggest test for Moses – that will come down the line – but it will be interesting to see how he plays and if the fire and athleticism is still there.
Shut down Damon Hazelton
The Virginia Tech transfer gives the Tigers a true No. 1 WR who they will use to test an Alabama secondary that is young and talented, but maybe not up to the level of the rest of the defensive unit at this point. Missouri will have a new quarterback in either Shawn Robinson or Connor Bazelak, so Hazelton is likely to be the option on more downs than not when the QB is under pressure from the ‘Bama front seven. Stopping Hazelton will give the Mizzou offense nowhere to go consistently with the ball and will lead to a string of three and outs.
Saturday‘s game kicks off at 6:00 PM CT (7:00 PM ET). Watch on the ESPN Network.