North Texas-Alabama Preview

Alabama’s potent rushing attack doesn’t seem to have missed a
beat despite losing 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram to the
NFL.

Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy are the main reasons why.

The running back tandem looks to build on an impressive start to
the season and help the second-ranked Crimson Tide open 3-0 for an
eighth consecutive year when they host North Texas on Saturday
night.

Ingram set a single-season school record with 1,658 rushing
yards two years ago before rushing for 13 touchdowns during an
injury-plagued 2010, but he decided to forego his senior year and
that left a big hole in Alabama’s backfield.

Any doubts about the Tide’s ground game are starting to be put
to rest with Richardson and Lacy combining for 291 rushing yards
through two games.

After scoring a career-high three TDs during a 48-7 rout of Kent
State on Sept. 3, Richardson found the end zone twice and ran for
111 yards in last Saturday’s 27-11 road win over then-No. 23 Penn
State.

With defenses focusing in on Richardson, the junior running back
has only averaged 3.8 yards per carry – down from his 5.4 career
mark. Lacy, though, ranks third in the SEC with 7.5 yards per carry
and is even the team’s second-leading receiver with 82 yards.

Jalston Fowler also has factored into the mix for Alabama (2-0),
having rushed for 69 yards and a TD on just four carries in the
opener.

“I knew it was going to be like this,” said Richardson, who
rushed for 1,451 yards in his first two seasons. “Everybody was
going to key on me, just because they think I’m the running back,
or man of the show, which I like. I’m glad they do, because Eddie
Lacy gets his carries and he does just as good as me. He does
better than me.

“I’m not the one they have to worry about because of those two
monsters (Lacy and Fowler) I’ve got behind me. And that offensive
line, they’re doing pretty good, too.”

Richardson and Lacy have made things easier on quarterbacks A.J.
McCarron and Phillip Sims, who continue to fight for the No. 1
job.

McCarron, though, seems to be leading the way after making his
second consecutive start last Saturday, completing 19 of 31 passes
for 163 yards and a score. Sims didn’t attempt a pass.

“That’s not my concern. That’s why coach makes the calls. Coach
tells me to go out and I’m going to play,” McCarron said. “Not just
myself, the whole offense did a great job of not allowing turnovers
and the defense got us turnovers. That’s the way we have to play.
If we keep playing like that, it’s going to be a special team.”

Despite McCarron’s solid effort, coach Nick Saban hasn’t
declared a permanent starter.

“We still have a competition at the position,” Saban said. “We
really do feel like we have two very good players and we want both
guys to continue to develop. But I thought A.J. did a nice job
(Saturday).”

The return of senior receiver Darius Hanks will surely help
whoever is under center against the Mean Green (0-2). Hanks, who
caught 32 passes for 456 yards last season, was forced to sit out
the first two games due to NCAA participation rules.

“I don’t think his transition back will be a problem,” Saban
said. “The guy has been playing around here for two or three years
and has a lot of experience.”

Alabama could be in for a big day against a North Texas defense
which surrendered 690 yards during last Saturday’s 48-23 loss to
Houston.

Sophomore Brelan Chancellor was the lone bright spot for the
Mean Green, breaking two school records with 286 yards on nine
kickoff returns and 332 all-purpose yards. He leads the NCAA with
483 total return yards this season.

Derek Thompson completed 21 of 33 passes for 172 yards with a TD
and an interception while the running game compiled 118 yards.
North Texas could have trouble improving upon those numbers against
the Tide, who are surrendering 170.5 total yards per game –
fifth-fewest in the FBS.

Alabama leads the all-time series 3-0, including a 53-7 victory
Sept. 19, 2009.