No. 8 Alabama takes a break from the rigors of the Southeastern Conference when it takes on FCS program Chattanooga on Saturday at Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The Crimson Tide clinched a spot in the SEC Championship Game with last weekend’s 49-21 rout of host Kentucky. Alabama (9-1) has reeled off eight straight victories since a Week 2 loss to then-No. 11 Texas.
But Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban is emphasizing to the players that they need to approach the contest against Chattanooga (7-3) in the same serious manner that they would a conference foe.
“This is either a game that you focus on correctly, you go out and practice and prepare correctly, and you build on the momentum that you’ve improved with over the last few weeks and that helps you get better for what’s coming up in the future,” Saban told reporters. “If you don’t do that, you don’t have a good showing, you sort of lose your rhythm — and rhythm is a little bit like momentum. Sometimes, you lose momentum in the game, it’s hard to get it back.”
Alabama has won its past three games by an average of 18.7 points, scoring at least 34 points in each contest. The other two victories were against then-No. 17 Tennessee and then-No. 14 LSU.
Saban doesn’t want there to be a drop-off down the stretch with two regular-season games remaining before the Dec. 2 title matchup against top-ranked Georgia.
“If you’re going to peak at the right time, you can’t have peaks and valleys,” Saban said. “You have to keep going in the right direction, and that’s what we want to get our players to focus on this week in practice in preparation for this game.”
One player excelling at a high level is quarterback Jalen Milroe, who became the first Crimson Tide player to pass for three touchdowns and rush for three scores in the same game during the victory over Kentucky.
The previous week, Milroe became the first Alabama quarterback to rush for four touchdowns in a single game.
Over the past five games, Milroe has passed for 10 touchdowns and rushed for eight.
“I think the team has a lot of confidence in him,” Saban said of Milroe. “He’s become a leader. He’s given us an opportunity to get where we want to go.”
Chattanooga, which is ranked 16th in the FCS Coaches Poll, is coming off a bye. The previous week, it lost 17-14 at home to No. 2 Furman in a setback that put the Mocs on the bubble for an at-large FCS playoff spot.
Chattanooga coach Rusty Wright is confident the game against the Crimson Tide won’t be his team’s final game of the season.
“We still have a lot to play for,” Wright said. “I believe in my heart that we’re going to play again (after Alabama). I don’t have any ideas or clues, but in my heart I know what this team’s been through and we should still be ready to play.”
Chase Artopoeus has passed for 2,672 yards and 20 touchdowns against seven interceptions for the Mocs.
Defensively, preseason All-American cornerback Kameron Brown has three interceptions — including his second career touchdown return — to raise his career total to 11.
Alabama is 13-0 all-time against Chattanooga. The Crimson Tide won the last meeting, 31-3 in 2016.
–Field Level Media
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