Jalen Hurts, No. 2/QUARTERBACK: Alabama’s spread offense is seemingly geared toward Hurts’ ability as a runner, but it isn’t any less effective with the freshman under center. Hurts took over the starting duties in the second game and has completed 63.2 percent of his passes while running for 521 yards and nine touchdowns.
Damien Harris, No. 34/RUNNING BACK: No Derrick Henry, no problem. While not the barreling tailback the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner was, the 5-foot-11, 214-pound Harris uses his vision and elusiveness to slip by would-be tacklers. He leads the team in rushing, averaging more than 8 yards per carry.
Jonathan Allen, No. 93/DEFENSIVE END: Not only is he a menacing pass rusher, Allen’s athleticism speaks for itself, including in Alabama's win against Texas A&M last month. He dived over a running back to sack the Aggies' Trevor Knight on the Tide's first defensive series. Later, he had his second touchdown of the season on a scoop-and-score.
Minkah Fitzpatrick No. 29/DEFENSIVE BACK: Fitzpatrick was a key player in the Alabama secondary even before safety Eddie Jackson suffered a season-ending leg injury against Texas A&M. But the sophomore cornerback could play an even more pivotal role for the Crimson Tide if he is tasked with replacing Jackson at safety.
NEW YEAR, SAME OLE BAMA
If you thought the defending champion Crimson Tide would take a step back after losing seven players to the NFL draft, including its Heisman Trophy-winning running back, you haven’t been paying attention to Nick Saban’s program.
The top-ranked and unbeaten Crimson Tide garnered its sixth straight No. 1 recruiting class, according to 247Sports, and found a replacement for quarterback Jake Coker with true freshman Jalen Hurts. Hurts and running back Damien Harris have spearheaded the best scoring offense in the Southeastern Conference.
The defense picked up right where it left off last season, holding teams to the fewest rushing yards per game in the nation. Not only does the defense prevent teams from scoring, but it scores on its own: Alabama has scored a defensive touchdown in all but one game this season.
Hurts has already eclipsed 500 rushing yards, averaging more than 5.0 yards per carry while tossing 12 touchdowns on 1,578 yards passing. Harris has only one rushing touchdown but has chewed up yards on the ground, sitting at 700 already.
Calvin Ridley leads all receivers with 44 receptions for 497 yards and five touchdowns. Ridley is followed closely by ArDarius Stewart, who has 28 receptions for 472 yards and four touchdowns.
Linebacker Reuben Foster, the team’s leading tackler, patrols the middle of a stingy front seven. Jonathan Allen and Baton Rouge native Tim Williams have combined for 12½ of the team’s 32 sacks, which is tops in the nation.
The secondary lost a playmaker in safety Eddie Jackson, who also led the nation in punt return yardage, to a season-ending leg injury against Texas A&M. But there’s no shortage of talented defensive backs on the roster, highlighted by Minkah Fitzpatrick.
As the Crimson Tide’s coach, Saban is 7-3 in meetings with LSU, and he's 3-1 on trips to Baton Rouge. Saban is 38-5 when Alabama is ranked No. 1 in the country and has won 12 straight games against ranked opponents. According to the Crimson Tide’s tally, Alabama has played only three regular-season games that did not have national championship ramifications since 2008.
In nine previous seasons in Tuscaloosa, Saban has coached 18 players who were selected in the first round of the NFL draft. With 23 players taken in the first round during his collegiate coaching career, Saban ranks third all-time. Alabama is behind only LSU with the most former players on NFL rosters to start this season: 43 for the Crimson Tide, 45 for the Tigers.
Alabama has eight players on its roster from Louisiana, including Williams, a University High product. The other Crimson Tide players from Louisiana: New Orleans natives Irv Smith Jr. and Raheem Falkins; Monroe's Cam Robinson, Hootie Jones and Cam Sims; Kentwood's Shyheim Carter; and Bossier City's O.J. Smith.
BY THE NUMBERS
12.6: Including Alabama’s 21-0 win in the 2012 BCS national title game, the Crimson Tide is holding LSU to 12.6 points per game in its five-game winning streak against the Tigers. Despite one-score home losses in 2012 and 2014, LSU hasn’t scored more than 17 points during that span and is being outscored 130-63.
70.1: At a 2.18-yard-per-carry clip, Alabama is allowing 70.1 rushing yards per game, which leads the nation and is 20.7 yards fewer than the next best team. The Crimson Tide has given up only three touchdowns on the ground, which ranks third in the country.
12: The Crimson Tide has scored 12 non-offensive touchdowns, which leads the country and is the same number of touchdowns the Alabama defense has surrendered. Alabama has scored a non-offensive touchdown in 10 straight games, including both games of last season's College Football Playoff.
43.9: Alabama is eighth in the nation and leads the SEC in scoring offense, averaging 43.9 points. The Crimson Tide has eight more touchdowns than any other SEC team.
87-4: When it rushes for at least 140 yards, the Crimson Tide is 87-4 since 2008, but three of those four losses have come in the past three seasons. Most recently, Alabama ran for 215 yards in a 43-37 win against Ole Miss in 2015.