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.