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A Q&A With Before Saturday’s Duke-Alabama Game

Back at us after Jim’s visit with them

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 10 North Carolina at Duke
DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 10: Duke Blue Devils quarterback Daniel Jones (17) hands the ball to Duke Blue Devils running back Deon Jackson (25) during the college football game between North Carolina Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils on November 10, 2018, at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, NC.
Photo by Michael Berg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Thanks to’s Brent Taylor.

1) Anyone who follows college sports knows about Alabama football but few of us have actually witnessed it in person. What’s game day like there? What sets it apart?

It really can be a great atmosphere. Obviously, there are some dud games where it’s early afternoon in 100+ degree heat against some FCS squad, and, well, it’s just too hot to get all that excited. But for the most part, Alabama home games are awesome to attend. The quad will be so packed with tailgaters that just finding your way out of the maze of tents can feel like an impossible challenge. And you’ll probably get some BBQ out of the deal.

The games themselves are a good blend of traditional moments (like Paul Bear Bryant talking incoherently about being winners while old-time highlights are shown) as well as plenty of newer traditions like the entire stadium singing Dixieland Delight in the 4th quarter. Plus, you really can’t go wrong with getting everyone riled up pregame with Sweet Home Alabama.

And they finally put some water dispensers in for the fans a couple of years ago. That might have been the best thing UA ever did.

2) Wallace Wade became a legend at Duke but of course he came here from Alabama. What’s the perception of him there now? Is he still seen as a major figure in Alabama football?

Oh he is absolutely still a big name at Alabama. There’s a statue of him right outside the stadium right beside the statues of Paul Bryant, Nick Saban, etc. It’s one of the most photographed spots for visitors. Plus there’s random spots all around campus where you see his name on something. The 1920s were a very long time ago, but pretty much every Alabama fan worth their salt knows who was winning championships for the Tide nearly 100 years ago.

3) Nick Saban has that team ready year in and year out. He reminds one a bit of Coach K in that he’s totally focused and is going to try to crush you. Aside from Tua Tagovailoa, what should Duke fans look out for from your guys? Who are the gamebreakers?

Well, since you won’t let me say Tua, I’ll just mention his receivers. Jerry Jeudy won the Biletnikoff award last year, and has one of the nuttiest highlight reels of jukes you’ll ever see. And he averaged nearly 20 yards per catch. Then there’s Henry Ruggs III, who’s probably the fastest guy on the team, as long as you don’t ask any of the other receivers. To round out the trio of juniors is DeVonta Smith, who’s a dependable target with a penchant for making overtime-winning catches in National Championship games. There is, however, a rumor that he may be suspended internally for part of the game. It’s been reported, but Nick Saban won’t comment.

Finally, there’s Jaylen Waddle, who’s a year younger than the other three and might be the most dangerous. He’s a little smaller, but doubles as a punt returner and is absolutely dynamic after the catch.

4) What can you tell us about Alabama’s defense?

The secondary should absolutely be the strong point. Trevon Diggs was looking like an All-American at corner last year before missing the last 3rd of the season with a broken leg (if you watched the national championship game, his replacement didn’t fair too well), but is back to 100% now. Overall, Alabama has 6 guys who have been quality starters over the last two seasons competing for 5 spots.

On the other hand, the linebackers continue their three-year string of horrendous injury luck. The Tide first lost 5th year senior Josh McMillon with a knee injury, and then just a couple of days ago All-American junior Dylan Moses tore his ACL. So, now Alabama will be starting two true freshman at inside linebacker.

The defensive line is also a bit of an unknown. Senior Raekwon Davis was viewed as a 1st round draft pick at this time a year ago, but a disappointing junior season led to him returning for another year. Across from him will be LaBryan Ray, who was once a 5-star recruit. He’s got the potential, but we haven’t really seen enough of him yet to know how he’ll fare. And then the nose tackle job was won by another true freshman, DJ Dale. So there are two new starters along the line, and both have missed a good chunk of fall camp with foot injuries, though they are expected to play in the game.

5) How badly will Duke beat Alabama? No? Well what’s your final score?

I think Alabama gets 45 points, maybe 48. Their offense is just leagues above anything I’ve seen at Alabama over their many championship seasons. They’ll probably hit 35 points by the 3rd quarter and start subbing in the reserves. On the other side of the ball, though, I think Duke uses Deon Jackson’s explosiveness in space to take advantage of a very green Alabama linebacker unit to rack up a little more points and yards than many people expect.

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