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.”