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Three Matchups to Watch: Alabama Crimson Tide

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Three Matchups to Watch: Alabama Crimson Tide

Ralph Webb runs the ball against Alabama A&M on Saturday September 09, 2017. Photo by Hunter Long.

Ralph Webb runs the ball against Alabama A&M on Saturday September 09, 2017. Photo by Hunter Long.

Hunter Long

Ralph Webb runs the ball against Alabama A&M on Saturday September 09, 2017. Photo by Hunter Long.

Hunter Long

Hunter Long

Ralph Webb runs the ball against Alabama A&M on Saturday September 09, 2017. Photo by Hunter Long.

Alyssa Muir

When Alabama comes to town this Saturday, it will be one of the biggest games Vanderbilt has hosted in a long time. The combination of the Commodores being 3-0 and just missing being ranked in the top 25, the fact that Alabama is the number one team in the nation, and that SEC Nation will be there makes for a very exciting day on the Vanderbilt campus.

Vanderbilt has been very impressive throughout three games, especially on the defensive side of the ball. After easily handling Middle Tennessee State and Alabama A&M, the Commodores knocked off the Kansas State Wildcats, previously ranked 18th in the country, by a score of 14-7. On the flip side, the Alabama Crimson Tide have also started 3-0. In a heavily-anticipated opening matchup, they defeated the powerful Florida State Seminoles 24-7 before routing two lesser opponents in the following weeks.

It is clear that Vanderbilt is a much better team than it has been in the past years and that they can definitely compete with top-25 teams. However, Alabama is on a different level than most other teams, making it a difficult, but not impossible, task for the Commodores. Here are three matches to keep an eye on during Saturday’s game.

ILB Oren Burks vs. QB Jalen Hurts

Through the first three games, Burks has made 16 total tackles, including eight against Kansas State, and one interception. He is the leader of a defense that has only allowed 13 total points so far this season. Burks stepped up in the tough test against Kansas State and will need to do it again against a dangerous Alabama offense and dual-threat quarterback Jalen Hurts.

This season, Hurts has thrown for 472 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. He has also rushed for 312 yards and three touchdowns. However, against Florida State, by far the toughest defense he has faced so far this season. Hurts was not overly impressive, throwing for 96 yards and one touchdown.

Burks and the Commodore defense will attempt to keep Hurts in check like he was against Florida State to limit the explosiveness of the Crimson Tide offense.

Vanderbilt Offensive Line vs. Alabama Defensive Line

While almost everything has looked great for the Commodores so far this season, one of their biggest weakness is their inability to run the ball successfully. Star running back Ralph Webb is only averaging 2.6 yards per carry, a large dip from the 5.1 yards per carry he averaged last year. It has not hurt them thus far, thanks to Shurmur’s fantastic passing statistics, but against a team as talented as Alabama, the running game needs to be established and a large part of that duty falls on the offensive line.

While Vanderbilt strongly wants their running game to improve, the defensive line of the Crimson Tide is one of the toughest groups in the country to run against, if not the toughest. They are allowing just over 80 rushing yards per game, which is eighth in the nation. Any one of their front four can make a big play at any given time which is cause for concern for Vanderbilt and their so-far limited rushing game.

Coach Derek Mason vs. Coach Nick Saban

Coach Mason has done a great job with the Commodores thus far, beating a top 20 team is not something that Vanderbilt has accomplished many times in the past years. His team ranks 1st in the nation in total defense, allowing under 200 yards per game. However, going up against Nick Saban and Alabama is a whole other monster.

Saban is the most successful coach currently coaching, and is definitely in the conversation for one of the best all time. In his ten years at Alabama, he has been to five national championships and one four of them. Since 2008, his team has been ranked number one at some point in the season. Saban is fresh off of a loss in the championship game last year to the Clemson Tigers, making him and his team hungry to get back their and redeem themselves.

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