Alabama hosts 24th ranked Southern Mississippi at 2:30 p.m. CDT Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The only telecast is on a Pay-Per-View basis. Conference/USA powerhouse Southern Miss is 4-0, while Alabama is 4-2, including a 2-2 record in Southeastern Conference games. This is the final non-conference game of the year for Bama.
"We've had two pretty good practices," said Alabama Coach Mike Shula. "I think the guys enjoyed the fact that it was a little bit cooler. I know the bigger guys did; they were moving around better. We still made some mistakes today that we've got to get cleaned up in our Thursday practice as we try to tie everything in."
On the injury front, it appears that linebacker Juwan Garth will not play against Southern Miss and that defensive tackle Justin Britt is doubtful. Back-up quarterback Marc Guillon is "taking it easy" this week, but will have enough work to be prepared to play "if he has to," Shula said. Shula said that wide receiver Keith Brown, who missed last week's game after being injured when slamming into fence post during the South Carolina game, practiced. He said that cornerback Simeon Castille, who has been nursing a knee injury, "looked better" and that tight end Clint Johnston, who had a slight concussion against Kentucky in Bama's 45-17 win last week, did all of the non-contact drills and would "do everything" in Thursday's practice. He said that defensive tackle Dominic Lee, who missed last week's game, had been able to practice Tuesday and Wednesday.
Shula said, "When you practice well, everyone feels better. We need to have one more good day, then on Saturday make good decisions."
He said that despite injuries that have hurt the team, "Everyone has confidence in everyone else. We passed on test last week at Kentucky with Spencer. And everyone has seen the contributions that Kenneth has made." Spencer Pennington has taken over at quarterback after a season-ending knee injury to Brodie Croyle and Guillon having "tightness" in his back prior to last week. Kenneth Darby has moved up to number one halfback after last weekend's season-ending knee injury to Ray Hudson.
"Spencer has had two good days," Shula said. "He's throwing the ball better. Ken Darby has had good practices. It's important those guys step up and play within our abilities." He said they need to prepare well enough so they don't have to think about schemes, etc. on Saturday.
The Tide coach said he believes that Southern Miss has a better team than the squad that Alabama defeated 17-3 last year. In 2003 Bama was also playing with its third team quarterback, Brandon Avalos (no longer on the squad), after Croyle and Pennington had been injured.
Alabama is 33-5-2 all-time against Southern Miss and Bama is 69-13-1 in homecoming games.
Shula said Southern Miss will "anticipate us running the football. And we are going to run it. They do a lot of things on defense. We've got to do a good job of keeping them off balance, mixing it up. And they have had two extra days to get ready."
Southern Miss' last game was last Thursday, an overtime win over Houston.
Shula said there have been no homecoming distractions, that the team is focused on Southern Miss due to being either in the classroom or on the football field. But, he said, as the weekend draws closer it will feel a little more like Homecoming. "You want to take a lot of pride in playing well in front of your home crowd, with people coming back for your Homecoming game," said Shula.
The Tide will go through a final practice on Thursday before having a walk-through Friday. Southern Miss will not work out in Tuscaloosa Friday.