TUSCALOOSA, Ala. | Nick Saban has given this Alabama team his early-season stamp of approval.
“I sort of like this team,” the Bama coach said this week.
It’s not precisely a ringing endorsement but it’s a good sign for the Crimson Tide. The top-ranked Tide has beaten a Top-5 team and dominated one from the Mountain West Conference while overcoming injuries to four linebackers.
The next task is another Mountain West team, with Colorado State visiting Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night as four-touchdown underdogs.
Then comes the Southeastern Conference schedule — but Saban would sort of not like it if his team got caught looking ahead.
“I think we have a lot of players on our team that I truly, truly think have very good attitudes,” he said. “They’re working hard, trying to get it right, trying to do better.”
That’s part of his continuous “process” that has little to do with the opponent and everything to do with “trying to get it right.”
The Tide (2-0) has already toppled then-No. 3 Florida State and routed Fresno State. The Rams (2-1) are taking their turn at representing the MWC after beating Oregon State by 31 points and losing 17-3 to Colorado when two touchdowns were negated by penalties.
This represents a much bigger challenge for Colorado State.
“When you watch this team on tape — offensively, defensively and special teams — it’s probably the best-coached football team that I have seen in a long time,” said Rams coach Mike Bobo, a former Georgia quarterback and assistant coach.
Bobo brings a quarterback, Nick Stevens, who has passed for 985 yards in three games and also has an All-MWC receiver in Michael Gallup.
“He does a great job of executing their offense,” Saban said of Stevens. “He’s a smart player that gets them in the right play a lot. Very, very efficient in the passing game. They’ve got a lot of good concepts that they use, they’ve got good skill players, they create great balance on offense and he takes what the defense gives.
“And he’s a very accurate passer and probably, from a passing standpoint, maybe the most efficient guy we’ve played against so far this year.”
Some other things to know about the Colorado State-Alabama game:
TURNOVER RATE: Colorado State has already forced nine turnovers, including seven interceptions. The Tide offense has yet to turn the ball over but Saban wants his own defense to do a better job of stripping the ball from opposing players.
RUN DABOLL: New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll hasn’t really unleashed tailbacks Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough, or at least they haven’t produced a big performance yet. Harris and Scarbrough have run for a combined 181 yards through two games but they’re still one of the Southeastern Conference’s top tandems.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts is easily the team’s leading rusher with 209 yards, including a 154-yard, two-touchdown performance against Fresno State.
TUSCALOOSA RETURN: Bobo played at Bryant-Denny with Georgia on Oct. 1, 1994. Alabama won 29-28 but Georgia won both games in Tuscaloosa when Bobo was a Bulldogs assistant. His offensive coordinator Will Friend was a starting guard for the Tide in the mid-90s.
TIDE’S HEALTH: Saban hasn’t indicated whether linebackers Rashaan Evans (groin) or Anfernee Jennings (sprained ankle) will be able to return from injuries. He also said he wasn’t sure if tailback Josh Jacobs will play after missing the first two games with a hamstring injury sustained in fall camp.
NONCONFERENCE STREAK: Alabama has a 28-game nonconference winning streak at Bryant-Denny Stadium since losing to Louisiana-Monroe in 2007. The Tide has won such games by an average score of 37.8-11.8 with nine shutouts under Saban.