Football Heads to Florida for Key Road Matchup

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM Alabama heads to Gainesville to face Florida.
ROLLTIDEDOTCOM
Alabama heads to Gainesville to face Florida.
ROLLTIDEDOTCOM

Sept. 26, 2011

Game #5 |  No. 3/2 Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC) at No. 12/12 Florida (4-0, 2-0 SEC)
 Date Saturday, Oct. 1 | 7 p.m. CT
 Location Gainesville, Fla. | Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (88,548)
 Tickets Ticket Information
 Television CBS | Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson & Tracy
Wolfson
 Radio Crimson Tide Sports Network | Listen Live
 Live Stats GameTracker
 Gameday Gameday Information
 Game Notes Alabama Notes Get Acrobat Reader | Opponent Notes
 All-Time Series Alabama Leads 21-14 | 8-2 in Gainesville | Streak: UA 2

THE GAME: No. 3/2 Alabama heads to Gainesville, Fla., for its first Southeastern Conference road test when it takes on the No. 12/12 Florida Gators on Saturday, October 1, in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. It will be the 37th meeting between the two schools and 11th trip to Gainesville for the Crimson Tide. Florida is 4-0 on the season and 2-0 against SEC opponents following a 48-10 victory over Kentucky last week. The game will air on CBS with Verne Lundquist serving as the play-by-play announcer, and Gary Danielson at his side as the color analyst. The two will be joined by sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson. Eli Gold and Phil Savage will handle the radio call on the Crimson Tide Sports Network, with Chris Stewart serving as sideline reporter.

HEAD COACH Nick Saban: Alabama head coach Nick Saban (Kent State, 1973) is in his fifth season with the Crimson Tide. Named the school’s 27th head coach on Jan. 3, 2007, Saban has compiled a 42-11 record (47-11 before five vacated wins in 2007) at Alabama while leading the Tide to two SEC Western Division championships, one conference title and one national championship. Saban holds a career record of 133-53-1 (138-53-1) as a collegiate head coach, while also serving at Toledo, Michigan State and LSU. Saban won his first national championship as head coach of the LSU Tigers in 2003, guiding the Tigers to a 13-1 record that season. Overall, Saban has coached four conference championship teams (1990 Mid-American, 2001 SEC, 2003 SEC and 2009 SEC) and 11 of his 14 teams have played in postseason bowl games with the Tide appearing in a bowl game each year under Saban’s direction. Saban is also the only active coach to win two BCS National Championships and the first to accomplish the feat at two different schools.

RANKINGS: In the latest polls released on September 25, Alabama remains third in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 2 in the USA TODAY Coaches’ Poll, while Florida comes in at No. 12 in both polls.

FLORIDA SERIES: Alabama and Florida will be meeting for the 37th time this Saturday with the Crimson Tide holding a 21-14 (22-14 without NCAA vacation in 2005) edge in the series. Alabama and Florida are meeting in the regular season for the second time in as many seasons and for the first time in Gainesville since 2006. The two teams squared off in the 2008 and 2009 SEC Championships Games with UF winning in 2008 en route to a national championship and Alabama returning the favor with a 32-13 victory in 2009 in Atlanta before polishing off Texas in the BCS National Championship Game.

NEXT GAME: Alabama returns home to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday, October 8, in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Vanderbilt is currently 3-1 overall and 1-1 in SEC play after suffering their first loss of the season last week by a score of 21-3 at South Carolina. The Crimson Tide leads the series with the Commodores 58-19-4 (60-18-4 before forfeited and vacated games). This will be the first meeting between the two since 2007 and 82nd meeting overall.

ALABAMA UNDER SABAN IN SEPTEMBER: Alabama has been very successful in the opening month of the season under head coach Nick Saban. Now in his fifth season at Alabama, the Crimson Tide sports a 19-2 record in September following the win against North Texas. Since 2008, Alabama is a perfect 16-0 in September games.

RICHARDSON AND JONES HONORED BY THE SEC: Alabama junior running back Trent Richardson and junior offensive lineman Barrett Jones were named SEC Offensive Player of the Week and SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week, respectively, following the Crimson Tide’s 38-14 victory over Arkansas on September 24. Richardson rushed for a game-high 126 yards on 17 carries, marking his third-straight 100-yard game, and also caught three passes for a game-best 85 yards. Jones received the highest grade on the Alabama offensive line and helped lead a balanced Tide attack that led to 197 rushing yards and 200 passing yards.

TIDE AT HOME SINCE 2008: Alabama is 23-1 in its last 24 games at Bryant-Denny Stadium, dating back to the start of the 2008 season. During that stretch the Crimson Tide has been extremely stingy on defense and very effective on offense. Some of the most impressive numbers include 55 rushing touchdowns for the Alabama offense, while the Crimson Tide defense has surrendered just two rushing touchdowns at home since the beginning of the 2008 season. UA has averaged 190.8 yards of total offense more than its opponents while rushing for 130.9 more yards per game. Alabama is also outscoring its opponents by 25.2 points per game (33.6 points per game [807 points] to 8.4 points per game [201]). Below is a look at the numbers for the Crimson Tide during its last 24 games at home:

FIRST-TIME STARTERS: Three Alabama players have made their first starts for the Crimson Tide this season: quarterback AJ McCarron, wide receiver DeAndrew White and defensive end Jesse Williams.

NEWCOMERS CONTRIBUTE IN EARLY PART OF THE SEASON: The Crimson Tide has seen 18 of its newcomers – nine redshirt freshmen, seven true freshmen and two junior college transfers – make appearance thus far in the 2011 season. Among the nine redshirt freshmen were TE Harrison Jones, LB Adrian Hubbard, DL Brandon Ivory, OL Chad Lindsay, OL Austin Shepherd, QB Phillip Sims, RB Blake Sims, TE Brian Vogler and WR DeAndrew White. Alabama’s seven true freshmen included S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, LB Trey Depriest, LB Xzavier Dickson, WR Christion Jones, OL Cyrus Kouandjio, DL Jeoffrey Pagan and DB Vinnie Sunseri. DL Quinton Dial and DL Jesse Williams, who are both junior college transfers, have also contributed for Alabama this season.

PRESEASON ALL-AMERICANS: The Crimson Tide has had eight players earn preseason All-America accolades from various publications leading up to the start of the 2011 campaign. The list includes Mark Barron, Dont’a Hightower, Barrett Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Robert Lester, Trent Richardson, Courtney Upshaw and William Vlachos. Barron was a first-team selection by Phil Steele, Athlon Sports, Lindy’s, Sporting News and Playboy, while Hightower earned first-team honors from Lindy’s, second-team recognition from Phil Steele and third-team distinction from Athlon Sports. Jones was a first-team choice from Phil Steele, Athlon Sports, Lindy’s and Sporting News. Kirkpatrick joined Hightower on the Athlon Sports Third-Team, while Lester made his way to the second team of Phil Steele and Lindy’s. Richardson was a first-team pick on Phil Steele and Playboy and a second-team choice by Athlon Sports, Lindy’s and Sporting News. Upshaw was named to Phil Steele’s Third-Team list as was Vlachos, who also earned third-team recognition from Athlon Sports.

TIDE PLAYERS EARN EARLY ACCOLADES: Twelve Alabama players have been named to 14 different preseason awards watch lists heading into the 2011 season. The players have been recognized before the start of the 2011 season as potentially the top players at their position nationally. Trent Richardson leads the way for the Tide appearing on five of the 14 lists, while Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw were named to four of the lists. Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Robert Lester, Marquis Maze and William Vlachos appeared on three difference lists, and Darius Hanks and Barrett Jones on two. Rounding out the preseason watch nods were Nico Johnson and Michael Williams, making one list apiece. Barron, Hightower, Kirkpatrick and Upshaw are all on the watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player) and are joined by Lester on the Bronko Nagurski Award (defensive player of the year) list. Richardson has been named to many of the overall player and running back award watch list that have been announced, including the Doak Walker Award (best running back), the Maxwell Award (most outstanding player) and the Walter Camp Award (player of the year). Lester also appears on the Walter Camp Award list with Richardson.

TWO TIDE PLAYERS NAMED PLAYBOY ALL-AMERICANS: Alabama landed two players on the 2011 Playboy Magazine annual preseason College Football All-America Team. Mark Barron was selected at safety and Trent Richardson at running back. Alabama has had eight Playboy All-Americans in the last four years after Andre Smith was chosen in 2008, Rolando McClain and Javier Arenas were selected in 2009 and Julio Jones and Mark Ingram in 2010.

ALABAMA HAS RECORD NUMBER OF PRESEASON ALL-SEC SELECTIONS: The Tide placed a total of 16 players on the Preseason All-SEC team, which is the most in any year in the league. In addition, Alabama’s nine first-team selections is the highest for any team in a single season beating out the previous high of eight that was set by Alabama in 2010 and Florida in 2009.

11th Annual Herbie Awards: ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit unveiled his annual “Herbie Awards” prior to the start of the 2011 season. Alabama was well represented, garnering six different accolades. Junior Trent Richardson was named as one of the best running backs while the Tide linebackers were mentioned as one of the best position units in college football. Sophomore linebacker C.J. Mosley was mentioned as a “Name You’ll Know by October” while head coach Nick Saban was named as one of the best defensive minds in the sport. Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart made the list of “See You Next Year: College Head Coaches in 2012”. Senior safety Mark Barron was named to the All-Uni Team. Herbstreit also predicted that Alabama will defeat South Carolina to earn the SEC Championship.

NFL DRAFT: The Crimson Tide saw five UA players selected in the 2011 NFL Draft, including first-round picks Marcell Dareus (third overall to the Buffalo Bills), Julio Jones (sixth overall to the Atlanta Falcons), James Carpenter (25th overall to the Seattle Seahawks) and Mark Ingram (28th overall to the New Orleans Saints). Greg McElroy rounded out the Alabama draft picks by being selected in the seventh round (208th overall) by the New York Jets.

NFL IMPACT: Alabama has been a feeder-system for the National Football League in recent years and the start of the 2011 NFL campaign proved no different. All four Crimson Tide first round picks (Marcell Dareus, Julio Jones, Mark Ingram and James Carpenter) earned the start in week one for their respective teams. The four rookie starters were second among all schools as Wisconsin had five former players start in their pro debuts. In all, 12 rookies earned the start in their first game from the Southeastern Conference.

TOUGH SLATE: Alabama boasts one of the most difficult schedules in the nation with four games against teams ranked in the USA TODAY Coaches’ Poll top 25. The Tide has already faced No. 20 Penn State, where Alabama came out with a 27-11 win, and No. 12 Arkansas, winning 38-14. The Tide will also take on No. 12 Florida (Oct. 1) and No. 2 LSU (Nov. 5). In addition, two more of Alabama’s opponents are receiving votes in the poll including Auburn and Tennessee.

BEATING THE BEST: Alabama is 16-5 against the Associated Press Top 25 over the past three seasons and 9-3 against AP top 10 teams. UA had reeled off nine straight wins against top 25 teams until the loss at South Carolina. The Crimson Tide’s 31-6 win over No. 7 Florida on October 2, was the Tide’s second straight win over a top 10 team and third top 25 victory in a four-week span. Alabama went 5-3 against the AP Top 25 last season.

ALABAMA HAS SECOND MOST WINS SINCE 2008: Alabama has won 40 games dating back to the start of the 2008 season, which is the second most in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Crimson Tide won 12 games in 2008, followed that with a perfect 14-0 record in 2009 and a 10-3 mark in 2010. Alabama is one win back of Boise State, with 41 wins. The Tide has the most victories of any team that plays in a BCS conference.

ALABAMA RANKED 53-STRAIGHT WEEKS BY AP: Alabama has been ranked in 53-straight Associated Press polls, which is the longest streak in the nation.  The streak began with the first poll of the 2008 season. Boise State and TCU are the next two longest streaks with 50 and 46 straight mentions, respectively.

ALABAMA DEGREES: Alabama’s success on the field over the past three seasons under the direction of head coach Nick Saban has also coincided with the Crimson Tide’s success in the classroom. The 2011 Crimson Tide begins the season with 11 players that already have degrees in hand, including Hardie Buck (Aug. 2011), Josh Chapman (May 2011), Nick Gentry (Dec. 2010), Brandon Gibson (Dec. 2010), Barrett Jones (Aug. 2011), Phelon Jones (May 2011), Alfred McCullough (May 2011), Morgan Ogilvie (Aug. 2011), Chris Underwood (May 2011), William Vlachos (May 2011) and Alex Watkins (Dec. 2010). Over the past four seasons (2008-11) the Crimson Tide has seen 42 players compete for the Crimson Tide after having already graduated.

RETURNING SUCCESS: Alabama returns 19 starters and 51 lettermen from its 2010 squad that went 10-3, finishing the season ranked 10th in the Associated Press poll and 11th in the USA TODAY Coaches’ poll. Much of last year’s preseason talk was about the Tide’s offense, whereas this year it has been much about the defense. Highlighting the list of returnees in the defensive backfield is senior All-American Mark Barron and junior All-American Robert Lester. Barron was the team’s leader in total tackles with 75, while Lester led Alabama in interceptions with eight. Among the Tide’s returnees up front is senior Courtney Upshaw and junior Dont’a Hightower, who combined for 121 total tackles, 18 tackles for loss, seven sacks and five pass breakups. Upshaw was first on the team in tackles for loss with 14.5 and ranked fifth in the SEC with his seven sacks. As a unit, Alabama’s defense finished the 2010 season ranked third nationally in scoring defense (13.54 ppg), fifth in total defense (286.38) and sixth in pass efficiency defense (103.54).

SABAN AMONG THE BEST: Head coach Nick Saban’s arrival in Tuscaloosa led to the Crimson Tide’s rapid rise up the national rankings. That success in such a short period of time impacted the Tide’s record book. Saban produced the largest win increase from year one to year two in school history as Alabama went from seven wins in 2007 to 12 wins in 2008. He is one of two coaches (with Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops) in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) to have coached 10 years and never suffered through a losing season. Saban achieved more firsts in 2009 with back-to-back 10-win seasons and his first undefeated campaign. He followed that up with another 10-win season in 2011. Saban ranks sixth in winning percentage (71.3 percent) among active coaches who have coached at least 10 years of FBS football. He is also the only active coach, and one of only two coaches (with former Florida head coach Urban Meyer) to win two BCS National Championships and the first to accomplish the feat at two different schools.

NEW HIRES: The Alabama football staff features three new assistants in 2011 with the addition of Mike Groh (wide receivers and recruiting coordinator), Chris Rumph (defensive line) and Jeff Stoutland (offensive line). Groh, a former quarterback at Virginia, joins the Crimson Tide after most recently serving as quarterbacks coach at Louisville. Rumph, a four-year letterman at South Carolina, spent the last five seasons as the defensive ends coach at Clemson, while Stoutland served as Miami’s offensive line coach from 2007-10.

SUNSERI FAMILY OF FOOTBALL: Alabama assistant head coach Sal Sunseri is joined this season by his youngest son Vinnie, who has twice been named one of the Specialists of the Week by the coaching staff. The Sunseri family tree now spans to two major college football programs as his eldest son, Tino, enters his junior season at Pittsburgh. Tino will once again take the reins of the Panther offense as he enters his second season as the starting quarterback and was named the team captain. Sal left his mark on the field as well, earning consensus All-American honors as a senior team captain at Pittsburgh in 1981. In addition, he anchored a Panther defense that led the NCAA in total defense in 1980 and 1981.

Helmet Decals: The Alabama football team is sporting more than just crimson on its helmets in 2011. The Crimson Tide wears a houndstooth pattern decal and a number 77 decal on all of its helmets this season. The houndstooth decal represents the memory of the devastation created by the tornado that hit the Tuscaloosa community on April 27 and the 77 decal is in memory of the late Aaron Douglas, a Tide offensive lineman who passed away in May.

 Defensive Notes

DEFENSE MAKES A STATEMENT: Alabama’s defense entered the season as one of the more impressive units on paper in the country, and Kirby Smart’s bunch quickly proved they know how to make it translate to the field. Through four games, the Crimson Tide has held opponents to an average of 184.0 total yards of offense, ranking Alabama second in the nation in total defense. The Tide also ranks in the top three in the remaining defensive categories, including pass efficiency (second - 74.70 passer efficiency rating), scoring defense (second - 8.00 ppg), rushing defense (45.75 ypg) and pass defense (third - 138-25 ypg). Those marks lead the SEC in each category.

COMPLETIONS HARD TO COME BY: The Alabama defense has been the best in the nation in limiting completions from opposing quarterbacks. The Crimson Tide has held opponents to a meager 43.95 completion percentage through four games (67-of-157). The next best mark is 46.25 percent by the San Diego State. The Tide also leads the nation in yards per attempt at 3.52 ypa while ranking second in yards per completion at 8.01. Overall, Alabama ranks in the top-3 nationally in all five defensive categories, including: scoring defense (2nd, 8.0 ppg.), total defense (2nd, 184 ypg.), pass efficiency defense (2nd, 74.70), rushing defense (3rd, 45.75 ypg.) and pass defense (3rd, 138.25 ypg.).

YARDS AT A PREMIUM: The Alabama defense is only allowing an average of 184 yards per game entering this week’s SEC road opener at Florida, which ranks third nationally and leads the SEC. The Tide is also surrendering only 2.82 yards per play, which leads the nation. UA opponents have run 261 plays against the Crimson Tide defense this season and only managed 67 plays – both running and passing – that went for more than five yards, which accounts for just 25.7 percent. On the flip side of that, the Alabama offense has seen 47.9 percent of its plays go for more than five yards (127-of-265). The Tide defense has also given up just 25 plays (9.6 percent) of more than 10 yards and 12 plays of more than 15 yards (4.6 percent)

ALABAMA TERRITORY PROTECTED GROUND: Crossing midfield against the Crimson Tide defense has not been an easy task in the first four games of the 2011 season. Alabama opponents have driven across the 50-yard line just 13 times (only counts drives that started in Alabama territory), but of those 13 drives that moved into Alabama territory, the opponent got passed the UA 40-yard line only seven times. Of those 13 drives, opponents have managed just 24 points (three touchdown one field goal). Alabama has forced interceptions on three of those drives and punts two other times. The Tide has also blocked one field goal, forced two turnovers on downs once and recovered a fumble.

STOUT DEFENSIVE OUTING: The Alabama defense once again turned in a strong defensive effort in the conference-opening win over Arkansas. The Crimson Tide held the Hogs to 226 total yards (17 rushing, 209 passing) on last Saturday. The 17 rushing yards was the lowest total for the Hogs in series history. In Saban’s 58-game tenure at Alabama, the Crimson Tide has limited the opposition to less than 300 yards of total offense 33 times, or 57 percent of the time. The Tide has not allowed more than 251 yards (Penn State) in a single game this season and has twice limited the opponent to less than 200 yard (Kent State – 90 yards; North Texas – 169 yards).

10 POINTS OR LESS: The Crimson Tide shutout North Texas on Sept. 17, posting the fourth shutout of the Nick Saban Era at Alabama and the first since a 45-0 win over Chattanooga on November 21, 2009. Under Saban, the Crimson Tide has held opponents to 10 points or less 26 times including twice in four games this season. Last season Alabama held opponents to 10 points or less eight times and limited opponents to that mark seven times in 2009 and 2008. In 2007, the Tide posted two games in which it held opponents to that mark. Since 2007, Alabama has held opponents to 10 points or less 26 times and less than a touchdown 12 times.

FIRST DOWN STICK HARD TO FIND: Alabama’s defense has also proved very stingy when it came to allowing first downs, surrendering just 47 first downs in four games for a an average of 11.75 per contest. UA has allowed just 13 total first downs rushing and five have come by penalty. Opposing offenses are converting just 30.43 percent of their third-down attempts against Alabama (21-of-69). The Crimson Tide gave up a season-low six against Kent State. The Tide allowed just one rushing first down and a single first down to KSU in the entire first half. The six first downs allowed are the second fewest in the Nick Saban era (2007-present) – UA gave up just five to Chattanooga in 2009. The Crimson Tide has held opponents to nine first downs or less eight times dating back to the start of the 2008 season.

YARDS HARD TO COME BY: During Nick Saban’s last 45 games at the Capstone, the Crimson Tide defense has held the opposing offense to less than 200 yards of total offense 15 times. Alabama has accomplished the feat twice thus far this season, limiting Kent State to 90 total yards, while holding North Texas to 169. The 90 yards against Kent State also marked the second time a Saban defense has limited its opponent to less than 100 yards of total offense. Alabama’s best came in 2009 when they held Chattanooga to just 84 yards of total offense. The Tide held opponents under 200 yards three times in 2010, four times in 2009 and six times in 2008.

THREE AND OUT: Alabama led the nation in defensive three-and-outs in 2009 with 5.61 per game and then ranked 10th nationally last season with 4.08 per game. The 2011 season is off to and even better start with a national-best 30 three-and-outs in four games. The Tide forced Kent State into three-and-outs on 12 of its 17 possessions. UA thne forced Penn State to three three-and-outs in week two and North Texas into eight. Alabama opened SEC play by recording seven three-and-outs against Arkansas, making for an average of 7.5 per game.

FIRST-HALF DEFENSE: Alabama allowed just seven points in the first half of the Arkansas game. The Crimson Tide has allowed seven points or less in the first half of its last nine games. The Crimson Tide has surrendered three points or less six times over that span, including three first half shutouts:

First-Half Points

3 – LSU (Nov. 6, 2010)

3 – Mississippi State (Nov. 13, 2010)

7 – Georgia State (Nov. 18, 2010)

7 – Auburn (Nov. 26, 2010)

0 – Michigan State (Jan. 1, 2011)

0 – Kent State (Sept. 3, 2011)

3 – Penn State (Sept. 10, 2011)

0 – North Texas (Sept. 17, 2011)

7 – Arkansas (Sept. 24, 2011)

GROUND DEFENSE: Keeping the opposing running back under 100 yards is nothing new for the Crimson Tide. Alabama has surrendered just nine individual 100-yard rushing games dating back to the 2005 season (83 games), a mark that ranks second nationally behind Boston College (8). Since head coach Nick Saban arrived in 2007 (58 games), Alabama has allowed four players to rush for 100 yards in a game: Tennessee’s Tauren Poole (117 yards), Mississippi’s BenJarvus Green-Ellis (131 yards), Houston’s Anthony Alridge (100 yards) and Arkansas’ Darren McFadden (195 yards).

TOUGH SLEDDING ON THE GROUND: Alabama is now tied with Ohio State for surrendering the fewest rushing touchdowns in the nation since the start of the 2005 season, giving up only 48. The Buckeyes had led the nation until giving up a one-yard rushing touchdown to Miami on September 17. Since head coach Nick Saban arrived in 2007, the Crimson Tide has given up 30 rushing touchdowns while OSU has allowed 28. In 2010, Alabama surrendered just six rushing touchdowns in 13 games and has given up one this season in the final minutes against Penn State.

NOWHERE TO RUN: Alabama held Michigan State and Kent State to negative yards rushing in back-to-back games. The Tide limited the Spartans to minus-48 yards in last season’s finale and then held Kent State to minus-9 yards in the 2011 opener. In those two games, Alabama’s defense accounted for minus-57 yards rushing on 51 attempts for an -1.11 yards per carry average and no rushing touchdowns. On the other side of that, the Tide offense churned out 458 yards on the ground and 11 rushing touchdowns. In Saban’s 58-game tenure at Alabama, the Crimson Tide has limited the opposition to less than 100 rushing yards 35 times, or 60.3 percent of the time.

RETURNING CAPTAINS: Senior safety Mark Barron and junior linebacker Dont’a Hightower are the third set of captains to return to the position for a second season since Alabama first began naming multiple team captains in 1956. In 2002, both Jarret Johnson and Tyler Watts were second-year leaders, while Antoine Caldwell and Rashad Johnson repeated in 2008.

HIGHTOWER RETURNS: Junior linebacker Dont’a Hightower returns for his fourth season at the Capstone as the man in the middle of Alabama’s complex defensive scheme. Hightower received a medical redshirt for the 2009 season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the fourth game of the season against Arkansas. An amazingly quick recovery returned him to the practice field with full contact during spring drills. Hightower split time between the Mike and Will linebacker spots in 2010 while also seeing time with his hand in the dirt on passing downs to take advantage of his pass-rushing skills. The Lewisburg, Tenn., native has 158 career tackles with 12.0 tackles for loss and 17 quarterback hurries. Hightower leads the team in 2011 with 25 tackles in four games with a career-best 4.5 tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries.

BARRON RETURNS: Senior safety Mark Barron is one of the most prominent safeties in the nation. The Mobile, Ala., native is a two-time first-team All-SEC player while garnering third-team All-America honors in 2009 and first-team All-America recognition in 2010. He has 175 career tackles and has ranked second and first, respectively, among Crimson Tide players in total stops the past two seasons. Barron has 19 pass breakups over the past three seasons and 11 interceptions. In 2010, Barron was the leader of the Tide secondary. He finished as the Tide’s top tackler 75 stops while missing the bowl game with a torn pectoral muscle. This year, he is second on the team with 22 total stops while recording one interception and two pass breakups.

BARRON HONORED FOR PERFORMANCE AT PENN STATE: Senior safety Mark Barron was named the Jim Thorpe Defensive Back of the Week on September 14. Barron totaled seven tackles with an interception and a fumble recovery and both of his take-aways thwarted Penn State drives inside Crimson Tide territory. The interception ended a Penn State drive at the UA 9-yard line in the third quarter and the fumble recovery stopped the Nittany Lions at the Alabama 35-yard line in the fourth quarter. The interception was the 11th of Barron’s career. He was also named the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts at Penn State.

DePRIEST MAKES HIS PRESENCE FELT EARLY: True freshman linebacker Trey Depriest has started on special teams and seen reserve action at linebacker for the Crimson Tide this season. He was named the co-SEC Freshman of the Week for his efforts against Kent State where he led the team in tackles with 10 while making his presence felt literally throughout the stadium with multiple bone-jarring hits. DePriest has also been twice named a Specialist of the Week by the Alabama coaching staff. He is third on the team with 16 tackles in four games this year.

 Offensive Notes

OFFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT UNDER SABAN: Since Nick Saban’s arrival in 2007, Alabama has improved each season in points per game, rushing yards and passing yards. The Crimson Tide is currently averaging 11.4 more points per game in 2011 (38.5 ppg) than it did in 2007 (27.1 ppg) and 82.2 more yards per game in total offense.

RICHARDSON SETS CAREER BEST: Alabama junior running back Trent Richardson had a career game against North Texas. Richardson set a single-game best with 167 yards on the strength of a career-long 71-yard touchdown. His previous best came against Penn State (Sept. 11, 2010) last season when he rushed for 144 yards on 22 carries. His previous long run was a 65-yarder at Tennessee (Oct. 23, 2010).

RICHARDSON HAVING BIG YEAR: Richardson recorded his third straight 100-yard rushing game in the SEC opner against Arkansas. He is in the top 20 on the Alabama career rushing yard list with 1,892 yards to rank 17th in Alabama history. Richardson leads the Crimson Tide with 441 yards and eight rushing touchdowns (nine total touchdowns). His 110.25 rushing yards per game ranks 19th nationally and second in the SEC. He is also tied for the league lead with an average of 13.5 points per game while ranking tied for fifth nationally in scoring.

RICHARDSON ON RECORD PACE: Alabama junior running back Trent Richardson has been scoring touchdowns at an alarming rate to start the 2011 season. In just four games, Richardson has found the end zone nine times. Richardson opened the year with three touchdowns against Kent State and followed that up with two more at Penn State. Richardson scored three touchdowns for Alabama against North Texas and one receiving score vs. Arkansas to push his career total to 22 touchdowns on the ground and 28 overall.

IMPRESSIVE GROUND ATTACK: Alabama scored one touchdown on the ground Saturday against Arkansas to move its season total to 13. The 13 rushing touchdowns are tied for seventh nationally and leads the Southeastern Conference. The Crimson Tide has scored 19 touchdowns this season with 13 coming on the ground.

RICHARDSON HAMMERS HIS WAY PAST 100: Junior running back Trent Richardson has rushed for over 100 yards in the past three games, turning in a two-touchdown, 111-yard outing at Happy Valley against Penn State followed by a 167-yard, three-touchdown performance against North Texas and a 126-yard effort vs. Arkansas. He has scored eight rushing touchdowns and one receiving score in four games tying him for the No. 5 spot in the nation in scoring. Richardson also went over the century mark at Tennessee in 2010 (119 yards), vs. Penn State in 2010 (144 yards), vs. Florida International in 2009 (118 yards) and against Texas in the BCS National Championship Game.

Darius Hanks RETURNS: Alabama senior wide receiver Darius Hanks returned to the field on September 17 for the first time this season after sitting out two games in compliance with the NCAA redshirt rule. In 2011 he has four receptions for 33 yards.

AJ CONSISTENT AND EFFICIENT AT QB: Alabama sophomore quarterback AJ McCarron has shown excellent decision making after the first four games of the 2011 season. The native of Mobile, Ala., has connected on 63-of-95 passing (66.3 percent) for 779 yards and four touchdowns with zero interceptions in the last three games. McCarron has started all four of Alabama’s contests this season at quarterback. He ranks 44th nationally and seventh in the SEC with a 144.88 passing efficiency rating.

FIRST ROAD START … FIRST ROAD WIN: Making just his second-career start at quarterback, AJ McCarron recorded his first road win and it came at one of the most intimidating venues – Beaver Stadium – in college football against one of the most tradition-rich program – Penn State. McCarron’s initial success on the road for the first time follows in the footsteps of his predecessor, Greg McElroy, who defeated No. 7 Virginia Tech 34-24 in his first start away from home at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta in 2009. He then won his first true road contest at Kentucky later that season, 38-20. McElroy finished his career 11-2 away from Bryant-Denny (includes neutral site games). McCarron also joined McElroy in registering a win over Arkansas in his first SEC start.

MAZE MAKES A STATEMENT: Senior wide receiver/return specialist Marquis Maze is one of the key components in replacing All-America wide receiver Julio Jones, and Maze has shown exactly what he is capable of. The senior enjoyed a big day in the season opener against Kent State, setting personal single-game bests in receiving and returns. For the game, Maze returned eight punts for 96 yards (12-yard average), returned a kickoff for 39 yards, and caught eight passes for 118 yards for a total of 253 all-purpose yards. The receiving totals are single-game highs for Maze at Alabama, exceeding his prior high of six catches against LSU in 2009 and 96 yards against Florida in 2009. On the season, Maze leads the Crimson Tide in receptions with 20 for 226 yards (11.3 yard average) and one touchdown.  He also has 19 punt returns for 320 yards, with an average of 16.84 yards per return, ranking ninth nationally.

Barrett Jones DOES IT ALL ON CRIMSON TIDE OFFENSIVE LINE: Junior All-American Barrett Jones has started at right guard the past two seasons, but added a few responsibilities to his résumé this spring and fall. He started all four games this season at left tackle and has also seen snaps at left guard, right tackle and center. A candidate for the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award, Jones has now started 29 games at the Capstone.

O-LINE EXPERIENCE A KEY: Alabama enters Saturday’s game with one of the most experienced offensive lines in the nation. The Crimson Tide return four starters from last year’s unit and a combined 96 careers starts. Center William Vlachos leads the line with 31 career starts, making every start dating back to the 2009 season opener. Tackle/guard Barrett Jones is close behind with 29 starts, missing only two games late last season (Georgia State & Auburn) with a sprained ankle. Chance Warmack has started the last 17 games at left guard and D.J. Fluker started 13 games at right tackle. Anthony Steen is the newcomer to the group with just six starts.

NEW QUARTERBACKS MAKING STARTS IN THE FBS: Alabama is one of 27 FBS schools that had a quarterback making his first start during the 2011 season. In addition to Alabama, two other SEC programs will placed a newcomer at the QB position including Auburn and Mississippi.

100-YARD RUSHERS AND RECEIVERS: Thirty times in 28 different games Alabama has had rushers exceed 100 yards and the Tide has had 14 100-yard receivers in 14 games since head coach Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa. Former running back Mark Ingram recorded 12 100-yard rushing games during his career, while junior Trent Richardson has seven 100-yard rushing efforts and sophomore Eddie Lacy has produced two. Under Saban, Alabama has gone 27-1 in those 28 games that produced a 100-yard rusher. Marquis Maze (1) and Trent Richardson (1) are the only current players with a 100-yard receiving game. The Tennessee game on Oct. 23, 2010, marked the sixth time under Saban that Alabama has had a 100-yard rusher and receiver in the same game.

 Special Teams Notes

MAZE SETS PUNT RETURN RECORD: Senior wide receiver and return specialist Marquis Maze totaled a career-best 253 all-purpose yards vs. Kent State while also leading all receivers with 118 yards on a career-best eight catches. But he etched his name in the Alabama record book with a game-high tying eight punt returns for 96 yards. The 96 yards was also the seventh-most in a single game in UA history. Maze also added one kickoff return for 39 yards.

MAZE WEAVES HIS WAY TO AN 83-YARD PUNT RETURN FOR A TD: Alabama senior punt returner Marquis Maze took the first Crimson Tide opportunity of the second half against Arkansas for a touchdown on an 83-yard punt return. The punt return for a touchdown is the first of his career and the longest return of his career. The punt return was the first for a touchdown for Alabama since Javier Arenas found the end zone against Chattanooga on Nov. 21, 2009. The return also marked the 10th longest return for a touchdown in Alabama history.

SERIES Notes

ALABAMA-FLORIDA SERIES: Alabama holds a 21-14 (22-14 without NCAA rulings) series lead over Florida in a series that dates back in the Alabama record books to the 1916 season. The Crimson Tide and Gators will be meeting for the 37th time overall and second in as many seasons. The two teams squared off in the 2008 and 2009 SEC Championships Games with UF winning in 2008 en route to a national championship and Alabama returning the favor with a 32-13 victory in 2009 in Atlanta before polishing off Texas in the BCS National Championship Game. Alabama has earned SEC Championships with wins over Florida in 1992, 1999 and 2009. Florida beat Alabama in 1993, 1994, 1996 and 2008 for the SEC Championship. The last regular-season meeting between the Tide and Gators went in favor of Alabama, 31-6, on October 2, 2010, in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

SERIES RECORDS BY SITES: Alabama and Florida have met at six different sites since the first meeting in 1916. The Crimson Tide owns a 10-2 lead in games played in the state of Florida, including an 8-2 mark in Gainesville. Florida’s only wins against Alabama in Gainesville came in 1991 (35-0) and 2006 (28-13). Alabama and Florida have played 19 times in the state of Alabama, where the Tide holds a slight 10-9 advantage as well as a 6-5 mark in Tuscaloosa. UF won three of the five meetings played at Legion Field in Birmingham. Alabama won two of the three games contested in Montgomery. Florida has won three of the five SEC Championship games played in Atlanta.

SABAN VERSUS FLORIDA: Alabama head coach Nick Saban has a 4-4 record in his career against Florida, with five of the eight meetings coming while he was the head coach at LSU. Saban is 2-1 vs. Florida during his stint in Tuscaloosa. He compiled a 2-1 record against the Gators in Gainesville and a 0-2 record in Baton Rouge.

 Miscellaneous Notes

ALABAMA WINS 20th CONSECUTIVE SEC OPENER: With the victory over Arkansas, Alabama has posted a 54-21-3 (.720) on-the-field record in Southeastern Conference openers dating back to the league’s inception in 1933. The Crimson Tide has won 20 straight SEC openers, dating back to the 1992 season. The streak began with a 25-8 win over Vanderbilt on Sept. 5, 1992. The 20-game winning streak includes 12 wins over Vanderbilt (1992-2001, 2006-07), five wins against Arkansas (2002, 2008-10) and one win against Kentucky (2003), Mississippi (2004) and South Carolina (2005). The last time Alabama lost a SEC opener was Sept. 14, 1991, when Florida beat Alabama 35-0 in Gainesville. The 20-game winning streak in SEC openers is the longest streak in school history and the longest active streak in the SEC. The 2011 season marked just the sixth time since divisional play began that Alabama has opened its SEC slate with a Western Division team. That also happened in 2002 (Arkansas), 2004 (Mississippi) and the last three years against (Arkansas).

33 NATIONAL TV GAMES IN LAST 43 GAMES: Alabama’s contest against Arkansas on Sept. 24, marked the 34th nationally-televised game since the start of the 2008 season for the Crimson Tide. In 2010, Alabama had five games on CBS, three games on ESPN, two games on ESPN2, one on ABC and one on ESPNU. In 2009, UA played two games on ABC, including the BCS National Championship Game, and six games on CBS while ESPN broadcast two more Crimson Tide games. In 2008, Alabama had 10 of its 14 games broadcast nationally, including five games on CBS, three games on ESPN, one on ABC and one on FOX.

TIDE 42-3 UNDER SABAN WHEN LEADING AT THE HALF: The Crimson Tide is 42-3 when leading at halftime under head coach Nick Saban. Alabama had a 28-game winning streak snapped in 2010 against LSU. The first two losses came against LSU with the last loss to Auburn in 2010. In 2007, UA held a 20-17 halftime lead before losing, 41-34, on Nov. 3, 2007, at Bryant-Denny Stadium. In 2010, UA led 10-3 at the half before the Tigers rallied for a 24-20 win at Tiger Stadium. The Tide lost 28-27 to Auburn to close out the 2010 season after leading 24-7 at the half. The Crimson Tide is 3-5 under Saban when trailing at halftime and 2-2 when tied at halftime. The three wins when trailing at the half came in a 34-24 win over No. 7 Virginia Tech on Sept. 5, 2009, in Atlanta; a 24-15 victory over No. 9 LSU on Nov. 7, 2009; and a 24-20 win at Arkansas on Sept. 25, 2010 . Alabama’s two wins when tied at halftime came at LSU on Nov. 8, 2008, (a 27-21 victory) and at Auburn with a 26-21 win on Nov. 27, 2009.

HUGE CROWDS: On September 10, at Penn State, Alabama played before the largest crowd ever to witness a Crimson Tide football game as 107,846 fans packed Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa. The Crimson Tide has played in nine games away from home that saw the attendance figure eclipse 100,000, with all but Saturday’s game being played at Neyland Stadium against Tennessee.

Top 5 Attendance Totals at Alabama Football Games

107,846 – at Penn State (Sept. 10, 2011)

107,722 – at Tennessee (Oct. 26, 2002)

107,709 – at Tennessee (Oct. 21, 2000)

107,289 – at Tennessee (Oct. 24, 1998)

107,017 – at Tennessee (Oct. 23, 2004)

106,700 – at Tennessee (Oct. 26, 1996)

ALABAMA CONTINUES SUCCESS ON THE ROAD: Alabama’s win over Penn State on September 10, continued a trend of road success by the Crimson Tide in recent seasons. Including the win over the Nittany Lions, Alabama has a 12-2 mark in true road games since 2008. The Tide posted a 3-2 mark last season on the heels of identical 4-0 records in 2008 and 2009. Alabama has outscored its opponents 459-234 over that span. In all games away from Tuscaloosa since 2008, Alabama is 17-4, including a 9-4 mark against ranked opponents.

FRESHMAN ACADEMICS: Alabama’s 2010 freshman class did more than just excel on the football field, the Crimson Tide placed 11 rookies on the 2011 SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll, by far the highest total in the SEC - more than double the second-place team. Mississippi State was second with five, while Auburn, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee each had four. Florida and Georgia placed three representatives on the list apiece, and Arkansas, LSU and Vanderbilt all had two members of the honor roll, respectively. Mississippi rounded out the list with one. Alabama freshmen that made the list include: Cade Foster, Jalston Fowler, Corey Grant, Adrian Hubbard, Harrison Jones, Arie Kouandjio, C.J. Mosley, Nick Perry, Brian Vogler, DeAndrew White and Jay Williams. The 2009 freshman class was equally impressive placing 12 on the list, which again was more than double the next-highest SEC institution.

TOP AIDES: Alabama’s coaching staff was ranked No. 1 in the Yahoo! Sports/Rivals.com Top 10 Football Coaching Staffs list. Following the Tide was Oklahoma, TCU, Virginia Tech, Oregon, Iowa, South Carolina, Penn State, Boise State and Wisconsin. Alabama’s leadership on the sidelines and in the booth has a wealth of knowledge across all levels of football. The nine-man staff features a former head coach at the Bowl Subdivision level in Bobby Williams (Michigan State). The staff also has five coaches that have spent time as assistant coaches in the NFL in Mike Groh (Jets), Jim McElwain (Raiders), Kirby Smart (Dolphins), Sal Sunseri (Panthers) and Bobby Williams (Lions and Dolphins).

CRIMSON TIDE PLAYERS ON NFL ROSTERS: The Alabama football program is well represented in the NFL as it starts the 2011 season with former players and coaches dotting league rosters. The Tide has 38 former players and coaches working in the NFL this season. Charlie Peprah is the only Alabama player on the defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. The Crimson Tide has 25 current NFL players. There are 13 former UA players and/or coaches serving as assistant coaches in the NFL this season.

ALABAMA’S TVRECORD: Alabama has compiled a 184-125-4 (.594) all-time record in 313 televised games. This does not include pay-per-view, tape-delayed or closed circuit telecasts.

OVERTIME RECORD: Alabama is 4-7 (.364) all-time in overtime games. In its last overtime game, the Crimson Tide defeated LSU 27-21 at Tiger Stadium on Nov. 8, 2008. Alabama has lost six of its last nine overtime games. The Crimson Tide is 4-6 (.400) in overtime games against SEC teams. Alabama is 2-4 (.333) in overtime home games. The Crimson Tide is 3-4 (.429) in single-overtime games.

NICK’S KIDS: At Michigan State, head coach Nick Saban and his wife, Terry, started the Nick’s Kids Foundation, which the Sabans have continued in Tuscaloosa. Since their arrival at the University of Alabama, the Sabans have helped raise more than $2 million for “Nick’s Kids” that has been distributed to more than 150 charities and organizations throughout the state of Alabama.