The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders and Alabama Crimson Tide live on different sides of the tracks in college football. Nothing that happens in this Saturday’s game is going to change that. The challenge for Middle Tennessee is to compete and learn, to have an experience which will set up the Blue Raiders to do well in the Conference USA season.
The Blue Raiders won by a 70-14 score against lower-division Jackson State. The offense functioned smoothly, raising hopes that this season can meet expectations. However, that’s a very low weight class compared to Alabama, which is one of the big boys in college football. Moreover, Alabama played very well in its opening game.
The Crimson Tide blasted Wisconsin and made a division-winning Big Ten team from last year look very slow and average. Alabama did this without an experienced quarterback. Jacob Coker looked calm and composed in charge of the offense. Head coach Nick Saban had to like what he saw from his team, which hit, blocked and tackled a lot harder and better than Wisconsin, from start to finish.
The College Football odds are at -35.5 points for Alabama in some places, but it’s moved down to 35 in others. The line feels smaller than it should, not in reference to half a point or any narrow movements during the week, but in terms of being under 40 points. Middle Tennessee was a 6-6 team last season in Conference USA, not terrible but not especially distinguished in one of college football’s weakest conferences. The Blue Raiders gave up at least 34 points in half of their 12 games. They did not have a particularly aggressive or physical defense, and against Alabama – a team which is nothing if not physical – Middle Tennessee figures to have a very tough time.
If there is a strong reason behind the idea that Alabama won’t win by a point total in the 40s or 50s, it’s that this is a cupcake game for the Crimson Tide. Coach Nick Saban will surely try to get playing time for a lot of his backups, integrating them more into the whole of the team and giving them preparation so that when they’re asked to play during the SEC season, they’ll be ready. Alabama probably will downshift in the fourth quarter if it has a big lead, enabling Middle Tennessee to score some late touchdowns and sneak under the number. That could very well come into play here for those looking to the spread with their College Football picks.
For Middle Tennessee, defensive back Nick Beasley and offensive lineman Adam Stickel are both out for the season.
The Crimson Tide will be without defensive back Jabriel Washington, who is expected to miss two to four weeks with a knee injury. Linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton is probable. Wide receiver Cam Sims is questionable with a knee injury. Defensive lineman Korren Kirvenis questionable as well. Wide receiver Parker Barrineau is questionable, too.
Handicapping The Game
The Crimson Tide looked better and sharper than many people thought they would in week one. There might be a letdown, but Alabama seems too powerful to mess around with Middle Tennessee. Expect this to be a 28-point game at halftime and a 49-point game in the fourth quarter. Middle Tennessee might get one touchdown back, but not two. Bama will win by at least 40.
College Football Pick: Alabama -35 at Pinnacle