Start Time: 4:00 P.M. ET, Saturday, Sept. 26
Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
TV: SEC Network
Records: Louisiana Monroe 1-1, Alabama 2-1. The overall series is tied at 1-1.
Live Stats: here.
Betting Line: Louisiana Monroe +38, Over/Under: 55.
Louisiana Monroe Outlook: The ULM Warhawks head into this game at 1-1 with a win over an FCS program and loss to Georgia.
Offensively, the Warhawks have been fairly balanced with 64 rush attempts and 67 pass attempts. The offense, as a whole, has been able to finish drives with 6.78 points per trip inside the opponent 40. Full disclosure, many of the trips inside the 40 were against the FCS foe. It is a bad sign that quarterback Garrett Smith is the team’s leading rusher with 95 yards (eliminating sacks). No one on the team has any more than 42 yards on the season.
The passing game has been much more efficient for ULM with Smith connecting on 79% of his pass attempts. Wide receivers Rashon Ceaser and Ajalen Holley have combined for 34 catches in two games on 41 targets. The duo are being targeted by Smith on 63% of his pass attempts.
Teams love to run the ball against the Warhawks this season. 76.5% of all standard downs have seen ULM’s defense tested with a run play for an average of 4.9 yards per carry. The defense is giving up 201 yards per game on the ground. In two games, ULM has only faced 33 pass attempts, but are giving up a gaudy 8.9 yards per attempt. Alabama will look to fix their current offensive problems by lining up and running the ball at the ULM defense over and over. Defensive tackle Gerrand Johnson will have a chance to impress NFL scouts in attendance if he plays well versus the Crimson Tide offensive line.
Alabama Outlook: The Crimson Tide are coming off of a loss to Ole Miss in their SEC opener.
Alabama, yearly one of the best rushing teams in the nation, fell away from their run first philosophy in recent weeks with 130 pass attempts compared to 118 rush attempts. This has been a bad decision for one reason: Derrick Henry. The junior running back is averaging 6.9 yards per carry on the season with seven touchdowns on 54 carries. His backup, Kenyan Drake, is putting up 5.6 yards per carry in limited duty. As a whole, the Crimson Tide are rushing for 224.3 yards per game.
At first glance, 288.0 yards per game in the air seems to be quite impressive. Looking deeper, a completion percentage of 56.0% from starting quarterback Jake Coker and a catch rate of 28 catches on 52 pass attempts to ArDarius Stewart and Richard Mullaney (the team’s top two receivers) is troubling. By far, the best receiver on the team has been tight end O.J. Howard, a player that sports a 15.9 yards per catch average and a 84.6% catch rate.
Under Nick Saban and company, the Crimson Tide are one of the best defenses in the nation. This season’s squad sports what many are calling the best front seven in college football. Numbers back that statement with Alabama giving up only 2.6 yards per carry and 72.7 yards on the ground per game. They have been able to keep every opponent on the schedule from winning the line of scrimmage.
Ole Miss poked holes in an Alabama secondary that is giving up 252.7 yards per game. The normally ball hawking secondary only has two interceptions on the season while giving up six touchdown passes. Led by senior linebacker Reggie Ragland, the Alabama defense will be tough to beat unless you have the weapons of Ole Miss.
Prediction: Off the top of my head, I cannot think of many things scarier than an angry Alabama coming off of a loss. The Crimson Tide have some of the best recruits in the nation at nearly every position and a stable of running backs that any team in the country would love to have. Outside of the blip versus Ole Miss, the Crimson Tide play some of the best defense in the nation. The Warhawks are heading into this game with some confidence from a win, but also remember the thrashing Georgia put on them in the season opener. Expect something similar to the ULM-Georgia game with Alabama jumping on the Warhawks quickly in route to a big win. Alabama wins 48-10.