Middle Tennessee at No. 4 Alabama, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Line: Alabama by 39 ½, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Series record: Alabama leads 3-0.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Alabama opens a season where it's trying to return to the College Football Playoff after failing to make the Southeastern Conference championship game in 2022. This game answers the question, at least for the moment, of who the starting quarterback will be: Jalen Milroe, Ty Simpson or Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner. It's also a chance for the Crimson Tide to break in some new starters before hosting No. 11 Texas. Middle Tennessee tries to build on last season's closing four-game winning streak.
Whoever starts at quarterback for Alabama will have to work hard to avoid mistakes against a big-play defense. Middle Tennessee has ranked first or second in turnovers forced the past two seasons, including a combined 37 interceptions. On the flip side, coach Nick Saban and the Tide are hoping that aggressiveness opens up some big-play chances for the offense, too. It's a group that includes receivers Ja'Corey Brooks and Jermaine Burton and tailbacks Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Middle Tennessee: CB Teldrick Ross is eight defended passes shy of the school career record of 46, set by Cedric Stegall from 1995-98. Ross was second nationally with 22 passes defended last season.
Alabama: QB TBA. A game that oddsmakers don't expect much of a challenge could provide answers at the quarterback position. Saban hasn't dropped hints of who will start or how many will play, but it's a chance for whoever gets on the field to stake a claim on the job.
FACTS & FIGURES
Alabama, which has often opened with neutral-site games, has a 21-game winning streak in home openers. The Tide has won 20 straight at Bryant-Denny Stadium going back to 2019 and won 56 consecutive nonconference regular-season games. Middle Tennessee picked up its first win over a ranked opponent in 21 tries with last season's 45-31 win over No. 25 Miami. ... Middle Tennessee quarterbacks coach Brent Stockstill played that position the last time the Blue Raiders played Alabama in 2015. Wide receivers coach Shane Tucker was a running back on that team. ... The Blue Raiders are coming off back-to-back bowl wins for the first time in school history.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll