Second-ranked Alabama takes a break from the rigors of Southeastern Conference play on Saturday, but coach Nick Saban is adamant it doesn’t equate to a needed breather.
Saban is bullish on this rationale despite the fact the Crimson Tide (8-1) will be hosting one of the worst programs in the nation, New Mexico State (1-8).
“I think that your opponent should be faceless in terms of what you want to try to accomplish and what you want to try to do in terms of individually improving and getting better and individually and collectively as a team getting better,” Saban said. “I think we certainly need to do that. We’re not where we want to be, so it shouldn’t be like … this is a good break for us.”
Alabama remained in the No. 2 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings despite a lackluster 20-14 win over LSU last weekend.
Saban isn’t worrying about the rankings, as he couldn’t wait to make New Mexico State sound like a carbon copy of the 1985 Chicago Bears.
Yes, the same New Mexico State squad that lost 35-13 to Utah State last week for its fourth setback by 20 or more points this season.
“I think New Mexico State is a dangerous team because they’re one of these teams that are going to pass the ball,” Saban said. “They’re one of the Top 25 passing teams (23rd at 278.4 yards per game) in the country. Their quarterback’s efficient. They’ve got good skill guys. They’ve got a pretty good runner.
“They play a lot of pressure-type stuff on defense, which we’re going to have to do a good job against. But again, I think the focus needs to be on what we need to do individually and collectively as a group so that we get things right moving into this week.”
Aggies quarterback Jonah Johnson has passed for 1,975 yards, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. He knows the Crimson Tide rate as a huge test for his club.
“You cannot afford to make mistakes against a team the caliber of Alabama,” Johnson said, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News. “Offensively, we can’t afford to turn the football over. We can’t afford the costly penalties and we can’t afford blown assignments.
“Moving the football against Alabama is already hard enough when you are not shooting yourself in the foot.”
The Aggies average 23.1 points per game and allow 38.1, with the latter figure ranking fourth worst in the country.
New Mexico State scored the first 10 points and led 13-7 at halftime against Utah State before getting outscored 28-0 in the second half.
“We really could not play much better than that in the first half on both sides,” New Mexico State coach Doug Martin said. “There’s a talent gap with us right now and other teams, and that’s obvious. You’ve got to be able to get players here that can compete for 60 minutes. Our guys wear out after a while, both mentally and physically.”
That doesn’t sound like a good formula for dealing with an Alabama squad that averages 43 points per game and allows 19.9.
Quarterback Bryce Young has been solid with 2,755 yards and 28 touchdowns against just three interceptions.
On defense, linebacker Will Anderson Jr. has been superb and has 10.5 sacks among his national-best 19.5 tackles for loss.
Anderson recorded a career-best 12 tackles and had 1.5 sacks among four stops for loss against LSU.
“The guy had an outstanding game for us,” Saban said. “He has played extremely well all year and certainly didn’t disappoint anybody in this game.”
–Field Level Media