No. 1 Alabama's 'machine' faces Saban alma mater Kent State
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Kent State coach Paul Haynes has been on the other side of these powerhouse-versus-underdog games.
The former Ohio State assistant is bringing his team in to face No. 1 Alabama on Saturday as the David in this battle with a college football Goliath. He isn't banking on catching Nick Saban's team unprepared even for a game against a six-touchdown underdog while coming off an emotional win over No. 23 Mississippi.
''As a coach you worry about these as far as preparation,'' Haynes said. ''I think that's what (Saban) has mastered. I think that's what he does the best of anyone in the country, that it doesn't matter who they play, they're never out of the game and they always prepare a certain way. They don't have choices. He doesn't give them a lot of choices. This is the way they do it, and that's why the machine keeps rolling the way it is.''
This game with Kent State (1-2) might be viewed as a respite for the Crimson Tide (3-0) after that 48-43 win over the Rebels, but it's got a special element for Saban. He's a 1973 Kent State graduate who played on the Golden Flashes' only conference champion as a senior.
Tide players insist they're not relaxing for this game, and not just because it's the head coach's alma mater.
''There are no down shifts,'' Tide linebacker Ryan Anderson said. ''We're going to practice this week like we're preparing for the national championship. That's the only way we're going to get better as a team. You can't down shift and then pick it back up. You just can't do it.''
Some other things to know about this game:
WAXING NOSTALGIC: Saban said it's been awhile since he's been able to visit Kent State, but he speaks fondly of his time there, especially that championship season. Coach Don James talked a reluctant Saban into working as a graduate assistant, starting a coaching career that's led to five national championships so far. At the time, he wasn't sure he wanted to coach or go to graduate school. ''There's a lot of things that impacted my life in a very positive way because of the people and the relationships that were developed there,'' Saban said.
INJURED RECEIVERS: Alabama receivers ArDarius Stewart and Robert Foster are both questionable for the game with knee injuries. Stewart, who was hurt in the Ole Miss game, is one of the SEC's top receivers with 13 catches for 205 yards and three touchdowns. Foster, a former starter, was injured in practice Tuesday.
SABAN VISIT: Saban took some time out to chat with a fellow Kent State alum when Haynes visited one spring five or six years ago, even delaying a staff meeting to continue the talk. Then at Ohio State, Haynes was visiting the Tide's then-director of football operations Todd Alles when Saban walked in and said he had some time to talk. ''So we went in his office and probably met for about an hour one on one and just talked DB stuff and defensive philosophy-type stuff,'' Haynes said. ''They had a staff meeting so coaches started coming in and he kind of held off the staff meeting and everybody was kind of looking at me like, `Who is this dude?'''
TOP DEFENDERS: Alabama's not the only team with star defenders. Kent State safety Nate Holley's 15.7 tackles per game ranks second nationally and he's tops in solo tackles averaging nine a game. Defensive end Terence Waugh's five sacks are tied for second in the nation.
YOUNG QBS: Tide freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts is expected to start for the third straight game, though Saban hasn't made any kind of announcement on the topic. Kent State starts a redshirt freshman QB in Mylik Mitchell. Both have thrown only one interception so far.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org