Nick Saban Updates Injuries, Calls Auburn Probably 'The Best Team We've Played'
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — University of Alabama coach Nick Saban updated the Crimson Tide's injury situation and had an eyebrow-raising moment when talking about Auburn during his press conference Monday.
Junior wide receiver Henry Ruggs III (ribs) and redshirt sophomore defensive line Phiadarian Mathis (undisclosed) will return to practice Monday. Senior defensive lineman Raekwon Davis (ankle) and freshman nose tackle D.J. Dale (knee) are considered day-to-day.
Freshman kicker Will Reichard (hip) is out for Auburn (2:30 p.m., CBS).
As for the Tigers, Saban called it one the biggest rivalries in college football.
"If you’re a competitor, you love to play in games like this game this week and playing against a really good team," said Saban, "and, maybe as it should be, a lot comes down to this game. It’s kind of the season within the season, so to speak, and I think if you have to explain that to your team or your players, they don’t really know what’s going on in football."
No. 5 Alabama (10-1) will have its season on the line if it wants to extend its streak of being the only team to make the College Football Playoff every year.
“I think Auburn has an outstanding team," Saban said. "They have some very impressive wins over top-10 teams, top-20 teams. The only teams they’ve lost to is some teams that were ranked in the top 10, so they’ve been very competitive and played well in all those games. I think their defense is one of the best defensive teams in the country, probably anchored by two really good players upfront. Derrick Brown and Marlon are both really, really good players and have been difficult for people to block all season long. They play great team defense. They play with a lot of toughness. So, this is going to be a real challenge for us.
“Offensively, they’ve been very effective creating balance. Bo Nix has done a really good job of doing that for them. They’re very effective running the football. They’ve got really good skill guys outside. They’ve got a really good runner, and Bo’s a really good runner. It’s a team that’s very good on special teams. So, this is the best team we’ve played, probably, so far this year, and it will be the most challenging place that we’ve played. So, a real challenge for the players on our team.”
Meanwhile, Alabama announced its players of the week for the Western Carolina game: Mac Jones, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle on offense; Christian Barmore, Christian Harris and Xavier McKinney on defense; and Waddle again on special teams.
- Completed 10-of-12 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns in the redshirt sophomore’s second career start
- Connected on his final eight passes that consisted of three scores and four first downs
- Averaged 27.5 yards per completion, connecting on explosive passes of 57, 44, 17, 37, 54 and 22 yards
- The junior led all Crimson Tide wideouts with four catches and two touchdowns on the day
- Accumulated 94 total yards with a long reception of 57 yards, which he took into the end zone for Alabama’s first touchdown of the day
- Finished as the team leader in receiving yards as the sophomore accumulated 101 on just three catches
- Recorded a touchdown on his long reception of the day, a 54-yard catch and run for UA’s final score of the first half
- Put together his most impressive performance to date, finishing with six total tackles to rank second on the UA defense
- Totaled one tackle for loss (-6 yards) and half a sack (-4 yards) to go with the redshirt freshman’s one quarterback hurry, part of the Tide’s five against WCU
- Contributed five tackles and added one quarterback pressure
- The freshman’s performance up front helped limit the Catamounts to only 67 yards rushing and 179 yards of total offense
- Forced three turnovers, including a forced fumble to go with his career-high two interceptions
- The junior returned one of the picks for an 81-yard touchdown, the Tide’s second pick-six of the season
- Added three tackles, including one for loss (-18 yards)
- Contributed on kickoff return to go with his punt return duties, returning his one kick for a gain of 20 yards
- Also returned a pair of punts for 67 yards with a long of 49, with the sophomore stepping out of bounds just short of his second return for a score this season
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