The School: The University of Alabama
Record: 3-0 (0-0 in the SEC). ‘Bama gets the privilege of opening its SEC schedule against Vanderbilt during its first 3-0 start since 2011. The Tide just can’t catch a break.
Ranking: No. 1 in the AP Top 25 and Coaches' Poll. Jeff Sagarin has Alabama rated first in his rankings (Vandy rose to 47th from 57th because limiting a team averaging 55 points per game to just seven isn’t that impressive to a computer).
Mascot: The Crimson Tide is the nickname. There’s an elephant for a mascot, too. Approximately 0.1 percent of Alabama is coastline and there’s never been a non-circus elephant to ever set foot in the state. Team might as well be called the “Liars.”
Location: Tuscaloosa, AL. The official city motto is "Together we can build a bridge to the future." The ACTUAL city motto is 25 seconds of rambling, half-shouted nonsense, followed by “thanks Paul I’ll hang up and listen.”
Coach: Nick Saban. Remember when James Franklin got a little tipsy at a dinner and called him “Nicky Satan,” and that somehow became a news item? There’s no way Saban didn’t take that as a compliment.
Conference: The ESS-EEE-CEE. Our conference is the petri dish Alabama has overgrown, spilling into the rest of the FBS with wreckless abandon. The good news is they give us a reason to yell “S-E-C” at our televisions most New Year’s Eves/Days. The bad is they’re the reason we have to watch melting wax sculpture Paul Finebaum on television.
All-time vs. Vanderbilt: 58-19-4. You have to go back to 1984 to find a Vandy win that wasn’t the result of a forfeit or NCAA ruling several years later.
In the Last 20 Years vs. Vanderbilt: 7-0-2. Couldn’t even beat Mike Shula. The year Nick Saban lost to Louisiana-Monroe? That was the same year the Tide won in Nashville 24-10.
The Last Time We Saw These Guys: Vandy had started the season 3-0 in 2011, then got trucked by South Carolina 28-3 before heading to Tuscaloosa. There, the trucking continued. The Commodores gained only 190 yards of total offense despite having both Zac Stacy and Jordan Matthews on the roster (combined touches: seven for zero yards) and the Tide just slowly ground Vanderbilt into a fine powder at home.
Is Vandy Favored?: Hahaha, no. Alabama opened as a 19.5-point favorite. By comparison’s sake, Vanderbilt has only given up 13 points this season. The betting public doesn’t have a ton of respect for the Commodores.
Most Potent Offensive Threat: Damien Harris. Harris has averaged over six yards per carry this fall to lead the Alabama offense, who should have trouble throwing against the nation’s top-ranked passing defense (95.3 yards allowed through the air so far). Vandy’s rushing defense only ranks 28th by comparison (3.3 yards per carry), so the logical choice would be to give Harris the reins, compounded with a healthy dose of running plays for one-threat quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Most Potent Defensive Threat: Shaun Hamilton. Hamilton could be replaced here by just about anyone in the Alabama lineup — 75% of its secondary could wind up as first-round picks next spring. Da’Shawn Hand and Da’Ron Payne can create havoc up front. Hamilton, a senior middle linebacker, is the kind of player who ends up everywhere and ruins everything. Expect to hear his name called entirely too often this Saturday.
Matchup to Watch: The Vanderbilt offensive line vs. Alabama’s next-level pass rush.
Vanderbilt’s biggest deficency this season has been an offensive line that’s struggled to live up to last season’s competence. That’s a terrible weakness to have when you’re set to face a defensive front seven loaded with blue chip recruits. The Tide are big and fast up front, and that’s going to give Kyle Shurmur nightmares Saturday.
Interesting Fact: Tuscaloosa, AL, has been named one of the U.S.’s top places to launch a small business. Unfortunately, 85% of those businesses are just schemes where kids in football jerseys stand outside the stadium on gameday and say they’re raising money to go to regionals.
They’re never going to regionals.
Bonus Fact!: Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox was a three-year letterwinner at UAB, and was thus awarded the city’s top job after being deemed the closest stand-in for landslide election write-in winners “F*** Auburn” and “SABAN.”
If Alabama wins, we: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. It’s Alabama. Vanderbilt isn’t supposed to beat Alabama. At best, Vanderbilt is supposed to look stoic in defeat. This year’s class of Commodores hasn’t subscribed to those Same Ol’ Vandy expectations, but if they’re going to lose a game this season, getting beat by the nation’s top team is the most understandable.