Pre-Snap Read: Alabama

Sept. 22, 2017

By Zac Ellis

Previewing Vanderbilt’s matchup with No. 1 Alabama on Saturday (2:30 p.m. CBS):

History Lesson: In a series dating back to 1903, Alabama leads the all-time record with Vanderbilt, 61-19-4. The two teams haven’t played since 2011, when Alabama secured a 34-0 victory in Tuscaloosa.

Names to Watch (Alabama)
QB Jalen Hurts
The sophomore signal-caller rang up 351 yards of total offense (248 passing, 103 rushing) in last week’s 41-23 win over Colorado State. He notched a career-high 154 rushing yards a week earlier in a 41-10 victory over Fresno State. The dual-threat quarterback stands to give Vanderbilt’s defense a test on Saturday.

S Minkah Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick was tabbed as a First-Team Preseason All-American in 2017 following a sophomore season in which he led the Tide in interceptions (six) and interception return yards (186). The junior holds the Alabama record for career interception returns for touchdowns with four.

P JK Scott
A Second-Team All-American in 2016, the senior Scott averages 46.0 yards per punt for his career. That mark ranks first all-time in Alabama history. Scott, who has punted 11 times and placed eight kicks inside the 20-yard line this fall, has the ability to flip the field in an instant.

PODCAST: Vanderbilt-Alabama preview with Crimson Tide beat writer

The Statistical
Number of teams who amassed fewer than 200 yards of offense against Alabama in 2016. That included limiting Washington – the fourth-ranked team in the country -- to 194 yards of offense in the College Football Playoff semifinal. Vanderbilt enters Saturday’s matchup averaging 346 yards per game on offense.

Points scored by Vanderbilt in the first half of games in 2017. The Commodores have outscored their opponents 63-7 during the first two quarters this season. That is a stark improvement from 2016, when the Dores were outscored 182-155 in the first half of 13 games.

Kyle Shurmur’s completion percentage through three games. That number leads the SEC and ranks 15th nationally. The junior quarterback has thrown eight touchdowns passes in 2017; he threw nine all of last season. Moreover, Shurmur has yet to commit a turnover this year.

The Big Question: Can Vanderbilt run the ball against Alabama? The Crimson Tide give up just 80.3 yards per game on the ground. Vanderbilt’s stable of backs, led by senior Ralph Webb, must churn out yards and take pressure off Shurmur and the passing game. The Dores average just 103.3 rushing yards this season.

Vanderbilt Needs To: Slow down Jalen Hurts. The Crimson Tide quarterback is the engine that fuels his team’s offense. He averages 8.67 yards per carry, which ranks second among all SEC players this season. But Hurts has improved as a passer in his sophomore season, and with weapons like receiver Calvin Ridley (219 yards, two TDs in 2017) on the edge, Alabama’s quarterback can beat teams in more ways than one.

Did You Know? Alabama’s matchup with Vanderbilt will be Nick Saban’s 54th career game coaching the Crimson Tide as the No. 1 team in the AP poll. During that span, Saban is 47-6 as the top-ranked team, the most wins as the No. 1 team at one school of any coach in college football history.

He Said It: “Our football team is handling this the way they should. It’s a different opponent, Alabama is a good team, but our football team is actually practicing the way they always practice. We are handling things the right way, and that’s good to see. Because you never know what your team’s going to do when you hit the grass coming off a big win versus Kansas State.” –Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason

Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics.


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