ORLANDO, Fla. – Top-ranked Alabama begins its quest for its sixth national championship under coach Nick Saban when the Crimson Tide oppose Louisville on Saturday in Orlando, Fla. Alabama, which defeated Georgia in last season's College Football Playoff title game, is looking to win 12 or more games for the fifth consecutive season.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ABC. LINE: Alabama -24.5
The quarterback situation remains in flux with junior Jalen Hurts and sophomore Tua Tagovailoa listed as co-No. 1s on the depth chart, and Saban has not indicated which way he's leaning in terms of a starter.
"They've both done a good job in fall camp," Saban said at a press conference. "We're excited about the progress both guys have made and what they're capable of doing."
Louisville is breaking in a new starting signal-caller in sophomore Jawon Pass and coach Bobby Petrino understands what a huge challenge Pass and his team are facing.
"The No. 1 thing we have to do is believe that we can go down there and beat them so that when you truly believe in something, then you go out and play your best, play to the best of your ability, and that's what's important for us," Petrino said at a press conference. "If there's any disbelief at all, usually you underachieve, and that's the main thing we can't do. We need to go play our best game to give us an opportunity to win."
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (2017: 8-5)
Pass (33 career passing attempts) has big shoes to fill as the replacement for 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, and Petrino said he has been pleased with the youngster's accuracy and decision-making during fall camp.
Senior receiver Jaylen Smith (appendectomy on Aug. 3) is expected to play against the Crimson Tide and aims to build on a stellar 2017 campaign in which he caught 60 passes for 980 yards and seven touchdowns.
Sophomore linebacker Dorian Etheridge (team-high 83 tackles last season) and junior defensive end Jonathan Greenard (team-best 15.5 tackles for loss, including seven sacks) lead the defensive unit under new coordinator Brian VanGorder.
ABOUT ALABAMA (2017: 13-1)
The quarterback competition is intriguing as Hurts is 26-2 as a starter and ranks fourth in school history with 40 career touchdown passes, while Tagovailoa (no career starts) threw three touchdowns in the national title game to rally the Crimson Tide to the victory. Saban declined to reveal if both quarterbacks will see action, cutting off a question with this:
“Look, none of that’s been decided yet. I wish we could talk about something else because I don’t really have anything else to say about it.”
The defense will again be strong with junior defensive end Raekwon Davis (team-best 8.5 sacks last season) being the best of the bunch, but the secondary is breaking in four new starters and two outside linebackers - junior Terrell Lewis and sophomore Christopher Allen - have been lost with season-ending knee injuries.
1. Alabama has won two of the three previous meetings, but the Cardinals routed the Crimson Tide 34-7 in the Fiesta Bowl following the 1990 regular season.
2. Smith is 45 yards away from becoming the 11th Louisville player to reach 2,000 career receiving yards.
3. Crimson Tide senior RB Damien Harris (2,194 career rushing yards) has a career average of 6.7 yards per carry, third in program history behind Wilbur Jackson (7.2 from 1971-73) and Eddie Lacy (6.8 from 2010-12).
PREDICTION: Alabama 38, Louisville 19