banner

College Football

more stats

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

Other Stories

  • PGA: AT&T Byron Nelson Championship

    Saturday at 3:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NASL: RailHawks at Jacksonville

    Saturday at 7:30 pm on WRAL-2

  • PGA: AT&T Byron Nelson Championship

    Sunday at 3:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • MiLB: Bulls vs. Syracuse

    Tomorrow at 6:50 pm on Buzz Sports Radio

  • NBA: Golden State at Houston

    Tomorrow at 9:00 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • MiLB: Bulls vs. Syracuse

    Saturday at 6:20 pm on Buzz Sports Radio

Scoreboard
Local
Final
ROC 8
DUR 2
 
2:30pm Friday
STONYBROOK
NCSTATE
 
7:05pm Friday
SYR
DUR
 
6:35pm Saturday
SYR
DUR
 
5:05pm Sunday
SYR
DUR
 
Final
TEX 3
CLE 12
Final
COL 6
CIN 4
Final
MIA 2
PIT 5
Final
CWS 5
TOR 3
Final
KAN 2
NYY 4
Final
BOS 4
MIN 6
Final
PHI 0
NYM 7
Final
SEA 3
TAM 0
Final
SFG 3
MIL 1
Final
DET 3
OAK 2
Final
HOU 4
BAL 5
Final
WAS 3
CHC 0
Final
ARI 3
STL 4
Final
SDP 5
ANA 4
Final
ATL 3
LOS 2
1:05pm Today
CWS
BAL
 
4:35pm Today
CWS
BAL
 
8:05pm Tonight
BOS
TEX
 
10:05pm Tonight
DET
ANA
 
10:05pm Tonight
NYY
OAK
 
10:10pm Tonight
CLE
SEA
 
10:10pm Tonight
PIT
SDP
 
10:15pm Tonight
ATL
SFG
 
4:05pm Friday
KAN
CHC
 
7:05pm Friday
COL
PHI
 
7:05pm Friday
TAM
BAL
 
7:10pm Friday
MIA
NYM
 
7:10pm Friday
WAS
CIN
 
8:05pm Friday
BOS
TEX
 
8:10pm Friday
ARI
MIL
 
8:10pm Friday
CWS
HOU
 
8:10pm Friday
TOR
MIN
 
8:15pm Friday
LOS
STL
 
10:05pm Friday
DET
ANA
 
10:05pm Friday
NYY
OAK
 
10:10pm Friday
CLE
SEA
 
10:10pm Friday
PIT
SDP
 
10:15pm Friday
ATL
SFG
 
2:10pm Saturday
TOR
MIN
 
3:05pm Saturday
COL
PHI
 
4:05pm Saturday
TAM
BAL
 
4:10pm Saturday
ARI
MIL
 
4:10pm Saturday
CWS
HOU
 
4:10pm Saturday
MIA
NYM
 
4:10pm Saturday
WAS
CIN
 
7:15pm Saturday
BOS
TEX
 
7:15pm Saturday
KAN
CHC
 
7:15pm Saturday
LOS
STL
 
10:05pm Saturday
ATL
SFG
 
10:05pm Saturday
DET
ANA
 
10:05pm Saturday
NYY
OAK
 
10:10pm Saturday
CLE
SEA
 
10:10pm Saturday
PIT
SDP
 
1:10pm Sunday
MIA
NYM
 
1:10pm Sunday
WAS
CIN
 
1:35pm Sunday
COL
PHI
 
1:35pm Sunday
TAM
BAL
 
2:10pm Sunday
ARI
MIL
 
2:10pm Sunday
CWS
HOU
 
2:10pm Sunday
TOR
MIN
 
2:15pm Sunday
LOS
STL
 
2:20pm Sunday
KAN
CHC
 
3:05pm Sunday
BOS
TEX
 
4:05pm Sunday
ATL
SFG
 
4:05pm Sunday
NYY
OAK
 
4:10pm Sunday
CLE
SEA
 
8:05pm Sunday
DET
ANA
 
9:10pm Sunday
PIT
SDP
 
7:05pm Monday
TOR
WAS
 
7:10pm Monday
CHC
MIA
 
7:10pm Monday
MIN
BOS
 
8:10pm Monday
BAL
HOU
 
8:10pm Monday
MIL
STL
 
8:40pm Monday
LOS
COL
 
9:40pm Monday
ATL
ARI
 
10:05pm Monday
TAM
ANA
 
10:10pm Monday
NYM
SDP
 
10:10pm Monday
NYY
SEA
 
10:15pm Monday
PIT
SFG
 
Final
HOU 90
GSW 104
Final
ANA 2
CHI 5
8:00pm Friday
TAM
NYR
 
8:00pm Saturday
CHI
ANA
 
12:00pm Friday
AUBURN
CHARLESTON
 
1:00pm Friday
CALIFORNIA
CCAROLINA
 
1:00pm Friday
COLUMBIA
ECAROLINA
 
1:00pm Friday
ORALROBRTS
ARKANSAS
 
1:00pm Friday
OREGON
IOWA
 
1:00pm Friday
SFLORIDA
FAU
 
1:00pm Friday
WRIGHTST
NOTREDAME
 
2:00pm Friday
MICHIGAN
BRADLEY
 
2:30pm Friday
STONYBROOK
NCSTATE
 
2:30pm Friday
TEXAS
OREGONST
 
3:00pm Friday
INDIANA
RADFORD
 
3:30pm Friday
ULLAFAYETE
RICE
 
4:00pm Friday
LEHIGH
LSU
 
6:00pm Friday
CANISIUS
SWMISSOURI
 
6:00pm Friday
CLEMSON
ARIZONAST
 
6:00pm Friday
MERCER
FLORIDAST
 
6:00pm Friday
MOREHEADST
LOUISVILLE
 
6:00pm Friday
VIRGINIA
USC
 
7:00pm Friday
FIU
MIAFLA
 
7:00pm Friday
FLAAM
FLORIDA
 
7:00pm Friday
MARYLAND
MISS
 
7:00pm Friday
SACREDHART
TCU
 
7:00pm Friday
STJOHNS
OKLAHOMAST
 
7:00pm Friday
TSOUTHERN
TEXASAM
 
7:00pm Friday
VCU
DALLASBAPT
 
8:00pm Friday
HSTNBAPT
HOUSTON
 
8:00pm Friday
LIPSCOMB
VANDERBILT
 
8:00pm Friday
OHIO
ILLINOIS
 
8:00pm Friday
TULANE
NWILMINGTN
 
10:00pm Friday
PEPPERDINE
FULLERTON
 
10:00pm Friday
SANDIEGOST
CSANTABAR
 
11:00pm Friday
CSBAKER
UCLA
 
Final
ROC 8
DUR 2
 
7:05pm Friday
SYR
DUR
 
6:35pm Saturday
SYR
DUR
 
5:05pm Sunday
SYR
DUR