College Football

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9:00 AM PT10:00 AM MT11:00 AM CT12:00 PM ET5:00 PM GMT1:00 AM 北京时间10:00 AM MST12:00 PM EST, Nov. 18, 2017
Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama  Attendance: 101,821

Saban: No. 1 Alabama focusing on fundamental work vs. Mercer

Mercer Bears at Alabama Crimson Tide

  1. Alabama has won both all-time games in this series, outscoring Mercer 40-0 in those contests. This will be the first meeting between the teams since the 1940 season.
  2. Mercer's offense has been very effective in the red zone this season, scoring on 32 of its 34 attempts. That 94.1 RZ percentage leads the FCS.
  3. Tee Mitchell recorded his sixth career 100-yard rushing game, but his first of 2017, when he had 120 yards on the ground against Western Carolina last week. The junior (1918) needs 82 more rushing yards to reach 2000 for his career.
  4. The Crimson Tide have run for 33 touchdowns while allowing just six opponent TDs on the ground in 2017. That +27 differential is tied with Notre Dame for the best in the FBS.
  5. A TD pass from Jalen Hurts to Devonta Smith with 0:25 left in regulation gave Alabama a 31-24 win over Mississippi State last week. It was the true freshman's lone catch of the game. In fact, he hasn't had more than one reception in any game this season, but he is averaging a healthy 21.0 yards per reception.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Coming off a close SEC road win, No. 1 Alabama takes its usual late-season, nonconference breather before the Iron Bowl.

That regular-season finale on Nov. 25 against rival Auburn will be packed with College Football Playoff implications, with the winner taking the SEC West crown and playing Georgia in the conference title game.

But, first, Mercer.

The Crimson Tide (10-0) will tune up for the Tigers on Saturday against the visiting Bears from the Football Championship Subdivision.

Alabama coach Nick Saban said his team can learn and grow from last week's tough win, as the Tide edged Mississippi State 31-24 on the road.

"I think you should always be looking forward, looking ahead to what you need to do to continue to improve, to develop team chemistry, togetherness," Saban said.

"People's roles change. Guys change what they have to do. It's sort of a work in progress all the time to try to continue to grow and develop as a team. That's certainly what our focus needs to be if we want to finish the way we'd like to finish."

This week, Saban wants the players to work on personal improvement as the season builds to a potentially gripping finish.

"We need to focus on a lot of fundamental, technical execution at every position," Saban said.

"Whether it's offensive line, defensive backs, it doesn't really matter what position it is. I think there's a lot of things that we can fundamentally execute with a little more consistency. And that's certainly going to be the focus in terms of what we try to get accomplished this week."

Mercer heads to Tuscaloosa coming off a thrilling 35-33 win over No. 25 Western Carolina on Saturday. The Bears (5-5, 4-4 Southern Conference) used four rushing touchdowns and a fake field goal that went for a 25-yard touchdown pass to pull off the road upset.

"Our guys went up there and probably played the best, most complete game we've played all year long," Mercer coach Bobby Lamb told reporters.

Lamb said it was very rewarding to see his players celebrate in the locker room following the game.

As for the opportunity to play Alabama ... well, that's special, too.

Lamb, who has been in coaching for 31 years, said he has never faced the No. 1 team in the country. He called Alabama the "most storied" program in college football history.

Lamb said it will be a "tremendous challenge" for his players and the Bears' coaching staff.

"If you look at the numbers, they're off the charts with how much they don't give up in the rushing game and the passing game," Lamb said.

"Offensively, they got big offensive linemen. They try to run it right down your throat, then they pop up and throw it down the field to No. 3 (Calvin Ridley). They're just a complete team, but it'll be a great challenge for our team to go in there and compete against the No. 1 team in the country."

Alabama is first nationally in scoring defense (11.2 points per game), second in total defense (252.4 yards per game) and third in rushing defense (85.4 yards per game).

But injuries are mounting.

With four linebackers still out, Alabama also will be without starting left guard Ross Pierschbacher (ankle) on Saturday. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (hamstring) is questionable for Saturday -- and it makes all the sense in the world to be cautious with that kind of injury in order to have him as healthy as possible for the Iron Bowl.

"I think Ross will be out for sure for this game and then probably a medical decision after that as to where he is," Saban said.

On offense, Alabama leads the SEC in rushing (270.8 yards per game), yards per carry (6.0) and rushing touchdowns (33). Damien Harris leads the way with a team-best 823 rushing yards. Efficient quarterback Jalen Hurts (11 touchdowns, one interception) is second with 656 yards on the ground.

While it's easy to look past the Bears, Saban understands the challenges a program like Mercer can present.

"The team that we play, Mercer, is a very well coached team," Saban said. "They do a good job. They know what they want to do, they know how to do it, they do a good job of executing. And they've done a pretty good job all year long."

Updated November 14, 2017

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