No. 2 Alabama Opens SEC Play Hosting Heavy Underdog Vanderbilt

La Monroe Alabama Football

Alabama head coach Nick Saban looks on between plays during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Louisiana-Monroe, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

Nick Saban wants more of the same from Alabama players in at least one regard.

The second-ranked Crimson Tide’s coach is hoping they’ll ignore the oddsmakers ahead of Saturday night’s game with Vanderbilt, which they seemed to do fairly well in an obvious mismatch with Louisiana-Monroe.

“I was really pleased with the energy that our players played with in the last game,” Saban said. “They could have come out and just said, ‘Look at who we’re playing’ and not played to the standard that we’re trying to create, which we tried to emphasize.”

It might be easy for the Tide (3-0) to overlook the nearly six-touchdown underdog Commodores (3-1), who have dropped the past 22 meetings and 21 consecutive Southeastern Conference games. It’s the SEC opener for both teams.

Alabama scored on a blocked punt, a punt return and an interception its 63-7 win over Louisiana-Monroe.

Clark Lea’s second Vandy team has already topped last year’s two wins. This could be a gauge of how far the program has come in that short period, even if Alabama makes for a tough measuring stick.

Both teams have a starter who would have been on the opposite sidelines early in their college careers. Former Vanderbilt offensive lineman Tyler Steen is starting at left tackle for the Tide. Commodores kicker Joseph Bulovas played in 26 games for Alabama from 2017-20.

Saban thinks the second-year Vandy coach Lea has “changed the whole culture of the program” in his short tenure.

“Their guys play with a lot of confidence,” the Alabama coach said. “They play well together as a team. You can tell they’ve got really good team chemistry.”

Lea has coached against, and played, Alabama before. He was defensive coordinator for Notre Dame when Alabama routed the Fighting Irish 31-14 in the College Football Playoff at the Rose Bowl.

Kickoff is at 6:30PM CDT from Tuscaloosa on the SEC Network.

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