If all goes according to plan in the Mal M. Moore Athletic Facility, there will be five days of calm before a four-hour storm.

The University of Alabama football team is no stranger to highly anticipated matchups, as Saturday’s No. 1 versus No. 2 matchup against LSU will be, and that experience is expected to be useful as it prepares for another one.

“I feel like for games week to week, especially for big games like this, we always preach calm before the storm,” right tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. said. “Only before the game, just focus on what you're doing in the game plan, prepare for what's coming and then when the game comes, then you can explode with all the excitement that’s been building up to that point.”

UA coach Nick Saban has 83 wins against teams ranked in The Associated Press top 25. The most recent one against Texas A&M on Oct. 12 moved him past former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden for second most in college football history; he is three behind the 86 top 25 wins by former Penn State coach Joe Paterno.

“You guys always ask me what are you going to do different this week because you’re playing the No. 1 team in the country,” Saban said. “Well, every game that we play is an important game, especially when you’re playing in the SEC, especially when you’re playing in the division, and this is most certainly an important game. But if there was a better way to do it, we’d already be doing it.

“I think the big thing you want the players to do is not get involved in the hype surrounding the game, or even think about the implications of the game, but prepare for the game as if this is the best team you’ve played and the player you’re going to play is the best player you’ve played against at his position all year long. And therefore you’re going to need to challenge yourself to play your best and be your best as a football player and stay focused on that.”

 

LSU loses linebacker

No. 1 LSU will come to Tuscaloosa without a starting linebacker.

The Athletic reported Michael Divinity has left the team for personal reasons, five days after losing defensive linemen Justin Thomas for the rest of the season for his own personal reasons.

Divinity has contributed 23 tackles, four for a loss, three quarterback hurries and a forced fumble to LSU this season. LSU still has competent experience at linebacker without Divinity with juniors Patrick Queen and Jacob Phillips alongside K’Lavon Chaisson. Phillips is the team’s leading tackler while Queen and Chaisson are tied for second on the team with 4 1/2 tackles for a loss. Chaisson is also tied for the team lead with four quarterback hurries.

 

Practice report

Tua Tagovailoa participated in the media viewing period of Monday’s practice, after missing every viewing period of the open week. Saban said at the time Tagovailoa got some reps against air and added on Monday his practice workload will be determined by how he reacts to returning to activity.

Also for the first time since the open week, the first-team offensive line was in tact. Center Landon Dickerson and left guard Evan Neal were full participants during the media viewing period after missing portions last week with minor injuries suffered in the Arkansas game.

Linebacker Ale Kaho still had a cast on his left hand, which Saban says he can play in games with, but Kaho was no longer in the black non-contact jersey. Kaho wore it throughout the open week.

 

Jennings closer to honor

UA outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings was named one of 12 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s best linebacker.

Jennings is one of just two SEC players on the list, the other being Georgia’s Tae Crowder. Jennings is tied for 10th in the SEC in tackles for a loss (7 1/2) and tied for ninth in sacks (four), and his five quarterback hurries are second the team behind Terrell Lewis’ 12.

UA has a history with the award. Saban has coached three Crimson Tide players to the award (Rolando McClain 2009, C.J. Mosley 2013 and Reuben Foster 2016) and Derrick Thomas was the third-ever player to win the award, doing so in 1988.

 

Morning game in Starkville

The SEC released its kickoff times for Nov. 16, confirming that UA will play consecutive morning kickoffs after the LSU game.

Alabama’s trip to Starkville to face Mississippi State will be at 11 a.m. on ESPN. It comes after the SEC’s statement last week saying UA’s home finale against Western Carolina will be at 11 a.m. on a to be determined network.

All that remains to be determined is the kickoff time for the Iron Bowl, which could be in the afternoon or evening slot. The SEC’s statement last week ruled out the possibility of a morning kickoff.

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson