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West Virginia (0-0) vs. (2) Alabama



Saturday, August 30, 3:30 p.m. (ET)

The Sports Network

GAME NOTES: The Big 12 meets the SEC at the Georgia Dome on Saturday afternoon, as the West Virginia Mountaineers challenge the second-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in the Chik-fil-A Kickoff Game.

The 2013 season was another disappointing one for coach Dana Holgorsen and the West Virginia Mountaineers, as the team managed just a 4-8 overall record, which included a 2-7 conference mark. Despite the poor showing, WVU showed a competitive spirit late, as three of its final four games went to overtime.

The Mountaineers have won 10 consecutive season openers, but with a record of 21-17 at the school overall, there is perhaps no coach in the Big 12 feeling the heat more than Holgorsen.

The Crimson Tide, winners of the BCS National Championship in 2009, 2011 and 2012, came into last season with lofty expectations, and for the first 11 games they lived up to their billing as the No. 1 team in the land.

However, Alabama's quest for a third straight national title came to an end after the team dropped a stunning 34-28 decision to bitter rival Auburn. Despite the disappointment, coach Nick Saban's squad received an at-large bid to the Sugar Bowl, but came out on the short end of a 45-31 final against Oklahoma.

Alabama has won its last 12 season openers, and is 20-2 in such contests dating back to 1991.

This bout marks the first-ever meeting between West Virginia and Alabama on the football field.

West Virginia's strength on offense last season was in the passing game, as the unit ranked fourth in the Big 12 and 34th nationally with an average of 262.3 ypg. That number could have been even bigger if not for the fact that the Mountaineers were one of the worst teams in the nation in third-down conversions.

Quarterback Clint Trickett appeared to be on his way to making the team his last season, his first in Morgantown after transferring in from Florida State, but he suffered a shoulder injury and struggled afterward. Holgorsen, however, has all the faith in the world that the senior will be able to take the next step.

"Why I named him the starter, he's healthy, 100 percent. Arm strength is awesome, body weight is good," Holgorsen said last month.

"He's been out there working with our guys all summer. There's a rapport that needs to exist with him and the receivers in order to be successful."

Receivers Kevin White and Daikiel Shorts, the latter of whom is the team's top returning pass catcher (45 receptions, 495 yards, two TDs) will help keep the passing attack on point, while the run will feature the talents of Dreamius Smith, Dustin Garrison, Andrew Buie and Rushel Shell.

From a defensive standpoint, the Mountaineers took it on the chin more often than not in 2013, as they were battered for 33.3 points and 455.0 yards per contest -- both ranking them among the worst teams in the Big 12, as well as he nation. They were especially inept when it came to defending the pass (263.3 ypg -- last in the league, 106th nationally).

The defensive line doesn't welcome back a single starter, but a solid rotation of several guys, including sophomore Christian Brown, could help the unit be an area of strength as the season moves along.

Senior Brandon Golson is probably the most versatile of WVU's defenders, and he will join junior Nick Kwiatkowski, the team's top returning tackler (86 stops), to form a productive linebacking unit.

The secondary, which was much-maligned last season, could be in for a bounce- back campaign as senior safety Karl Joseph provides veteran leadership, while sophomore Daryl Worley and senior Ishmael Banks do their best to make plays from their spots on the outside.

Alabama returns five starters on offense, including three along the offensive line, but it will need to overcome the loss of the most prolific quarterback in team history.

The departure of A.J. McCarron (.673 completion percentage, 3,063 yards, 28 TDs, seven INTs in 2013) has left a gaping hole under center, but the squad is expecting big things out of Jacob Coker, a transfer from Florida State who spent last season serving as the backup to Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. While Coker hasn't officially been named the starter, he apparently had the better training camp, thus giving him a leg up on Blake Sims.

While the quarterback position may still be uncertain, at least Saban knows he can trust his running backs. T.J. Yeldon scored 14 touchdowns last year and has rushed for 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons in Tuscaloosa. Derrick Henry is expected to garner more work, especially after his outstanding performance in the Sugar Bowl (eight carries, 100 yards, TD, 61-yard TD reception).

Amari Cooper (45 receptions, 736 yards, four TDs) is one of the SEC's top receivers, and he is expected to work alongside other talented pass catchers in Christion Jones (36 receptions, 349 yards, two TDs) and DeAndrew White (32 receptions, 534 yards, four TDs).

Saban brought in former Tennessee and USC head coach Lane Kiffin to serve as offensive coordinator after Doug Nussmeier left for Michigan.

"The players have responded to him very well," Saban said of Kiffin. "New energy, new enthusiasm, new ideas to do some things offensively that will enhance our chances of being successful."

In addition to efficient and productive offensive play, the Crimson Tide are known for having one of the top defenses in the nation, and last season was no exception as they ranked fourth in scoring defense (13.9 ppg) and fifth in total defense (286.5 ypg). It was the fifth straight season that 'Bama led the SEC in scoring defense, and the sixth straight in which it led in total defense.

Finding replacements for former stars C.J. Mosley (108 tackles, 9.0 TFL) and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (52 tackles, two INTs) won't be easy, but Saban is used to having to fill holes after the NFL raids his roster from one season to the next.

Safety Landon Collins (70 tackles, two INTs, two FF), linebacker Trey Depriest (65 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks) and defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson (8.0 TFL, 5.5 sacks) are the most experienced of the returning players, and all three were Preseason First Team All-SEC picks.

Other who could have a big year include defensive end Jarran Reed, linebackers Denzel Devall and Reggie Regland, and corner Bradley Sylve.

The Mountaineers are likely to have a bit more success this season than they did a year ago, but they are facing a very tough test in the opener. Even without a proven commodity at quarterback, the Crimson Tide are the better all-around team, and one that should challenge once again for SEC and national supremacy.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Alabama 35, West Virginia 17

08/29 15:14:59 ET

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  • ACC: NC State at UNC

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  • SEC: Mississippi State at Ole Miss

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  • NFL: San Diego at Baltimore

    Sunday at 1:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • CFB: NC State at UNC

    Tomorrow at 12:30 pm on WRAL-FM

Scoreboard
Local
Final
NCCU 65
EILL 40
Final
NCSU 60
BSU 54
Final
PIT 2
CAR 4
Final
CHA 101
GSW 106
Final
UF 64
UNC 75
 
Half
TULSA 14
ECU 21
 
Final
BOS 102
CHI 109
Final
CHA 101
GSW 106
Final
TOR 102
DAL 106
 
Final
DET 88
MIL 104
 
Final
ATL 100
NOP 91
 
Final
HOU 85
LAC 102
 
Final
OKC 105
NYK 78
 
Final
IND 98
ORL 83
 
4th
SAN 100
SAC 88
 
3rd
DEN 75
PHO 55
 
1st
POR 24
MEM 22
 
10:30pm Tonight
LAL
MIN
Final
WMICH 21
NILL 31
Final
SMU 9
HOU 35
Final
IOWA 34
NEB 37
Final
SFLA 0
UCF 16
Final
MARS 66
WKENT 67
Final
KSU 27
AKR 24
Final
BGU 24
BST 41
Final
UMASS 21
BUF 41
Final
EMICH 16
TOL 52
Final
MIZZ 21
ARK 14
Final
SALABAMA 40
NAVY 42
Final
ARZ 42
ARST 35
Final
AFA 27
COLST 24
Final
UCLA 10
STAN 31
3rd
VT 10
UVA 13
 
Half
TULSA 14
ECU 21
 
Final
NCCU 65
EILL 40
Final
KU 82
TENN 67
Final
TEXAM 87
NO 65
 
Final
NCAT 57
RAD 65
 
Final
GEOR 58
BUT 64
Final
BRO 81
PVU 71
Final
RIU 66
SCU 44
Final
NARZ 70
SOUTH 63
Final
DART 68
MAST 67
Final
WRST 59
FIU 61
Final
XAV 73
UTEP 77
Final
OSU 73
JMU 56
Final
TXSOU 71
LAM 59
 
Final
TAMCC 75
MVSU 66
 
Final
AKAN 51
MIZST 55
Final
BUCK 80
PSU 88
 
Final
PROV 72
YALE 66
Final
UGA 62
MINN 66
Final
WISC 69
OKLA 56
Final
Terriers 70
NORST 72
 
Final
PEAY 62
STEPH 83
Final
FSU 58
CSOU 47
 
Final
VALPO 66
DRAK 46
Final
CIN 69
MTST 51
Final
SDU 75
PRIN 65
Final
WASU 76
RICE 74
Final
CSFU 64
USCU 79
Final
GT 61
RIDE 54
 
Final
TXPA 79
ALAST 91
Final
NCSU 60
BSU 54
Final
TCU 57
BRAD 49
 
Final
WAKE 65
DELST 72
 
Final
HART 83
EMERSON 50
 
Final
STJ 66
GONZ 73
 
Final
CLEM 62
HIGH 59
 
Final
SYR 72
HC 48
 
Final
MD 61
MON 56
Final
JVST 74
SAV 71
 
Final
MIAMI 87
SALA 75
Final
RUTG 68
VANDY 65
 
Final
PETE 66
TENST 58
 
Final
MARS 59
CLST 68
 
Final
JST 56
HOF 86
 
Final
INDST 62
MEM 72
 
Final
UF 64
UNC 75
 
Final
LATU 77
SAMF 64
 
Final
TULA 71
SELA 61
 
Final
NEB 75
TENNM 64
 
Final
MISS 75
CREI 68
 
Final
PORT 64
MURST 61
 
2nd
MARQ 47
MSU 57
 
2nd
ARK 57
UNT 55
 
2nd
NCOL 66
STET 50
 
2nd
IND 68
UNCG 52
 
2nd
SJST 38
WMICH 55
 
2nd
MNTST 75
TXARL 53
 
Half
UVA 37
LAS 19
 
Half
STLU 27
MSST 37
 
Half
COLST 43
PAC 26
 
1st
UTAH 18
NDAK 7
 
10:30pm Tonight
ILL
BAY
10:30pm Tonight
UAB
UCLA
11:30pm Tonight
WASH
LBSU
11:59pm Tonight
UCSB
MERC
Final
PHI 0
NYR 3
Final
ANA 1
CHI 4
Final
WAS 5
NYI 2
Final
PIT 2
CAR 4
Final
NJD 4
DET 5
 
Final
BUF 2
MON 1
 
Final
CLB 0
VAN 5
 
Final
BOS 2
WIN 1
 
Final
FLA 3
OTT 2
 
3rd
STL 3
EDM 3
 
3rd
DAL 3
MIN 3