Georgia St.-Alabama Preview

Alabama’s reward for beating two ranked SEC West teams in
September is an October lineup that seems to set a clear path to a
showdown with No. 10 LSU.

The top-ranked Crimson Tide will almost certainly be
double-digit favorites for every game before the next really big
one, starting with eight-touchdown underdog and winless Georgia
State on Saturday.

Still, Alabama coach Nick Saban insists there’s no sure thing in
college football. His message: ”We respect every opponent that we
play, regardless of their record.”

”You see these games where Akron almost beat Michigan or
whatever it is,” Saban said. ”There’s nothing to be taken for
granted in any team you play.

”I think the best way to do that is focus on who you are, what
you’re doing, how you want to improve and how you want to play to
be the best player you can be. That’s certainly going to be our
focus for this week.”

Saban also may be putting extra focus on the secondary after
announcing star safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has been suspended
indefinitely for violating team rules. Saban didn’t say how long
the suspension would last and wouldn’t elaborate on the reason.

Clinton-Dix is one of the Crimson Tide’s top defenders and a
projected first-round NFL draft pick. He’s second on the team with
24 tackles.

His backup, Nick Perry, has been lost for the season after
shoulder surgery. Saban said Geno Smith and Landon Collins are
working at Clinton-Dix’s spot.

The Tide (4-0) had an up-and-down September but emerged
unscathed despite barely escaping No. 9 Texas A&M with a win
and sputtering against Colorado State, the only huge underdog on
the month’s agenda. Every other Western Division team already has a
defeat, and only Missouri – which hasn’t played a Southeastern
Conference game yet – is perfect in the East.

Alabama responded to the Colorado State performance with a 25-0
win over No. 24 Mississippi, the only ranked opponent remaining
before the Nov. 9 game with LSU. Nobody else on the schedule is
currently in the Top 25 besides LSU, and the four October opponents
– Georgia State, Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee – have a combined
record of 7-11.

The schedule seems to line up nicely for Alabama, barring a
sizable upset along the way.

All four of those teams are led by first-year head coaches.

Alabama won’t play any of the three ranked East Division teams –
No. 6 Georgia, No. 13 South Carolina and No. 18 Florida – unless
they meet in the SEC championship game.

As Saban said, it becomes about Alabama now. There’s certainly
areas for improvement, especially on a rebuilt offensive line and
an offense that still ranks 13th in the SEC. Center Ryan Kelly is
likely out at least the next two games with a knee injury.

Chad Lindsay played most of the game against Ole Miss, when the
Tide racked up 254 yards on the ground and held the Rebels to 205
total yards.

”We had something to prove, I guess,” guard Anthony Steen
said. ”We knew we should have played better against Colorado State
and we wanted to go out there and show everybody that we’re better
than that, and I think we did. But I think there’s room to improve
after watching the film.”

The Tide might have learned a lesson from the 31-6 win over
Colorado State about handling business in games where fans and poll
voters are expecting a blowout. Alabama only pulled away with two
fourth-quarter touchdowns in that game.

A win by the same margin over Ole Miss was much more impressive.
Anything short of a dominating performance against Georgia State
would be regarded as another letdown.

”We don’t want to be sleep-walking this week,” safety Vinnie
Sunseri said. ”We’re excited. We want to keep the momentum
rolling. We want to build off this win. It was a big win, but we’ve
got to move on from it and keep progressing, keep moving
forward.”