GAME SNAPSHOTKICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 ET
SITE: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, N.C.
SERIES: Alabama leads 2-1 (last meeting, 2006, Alabama 30-14)
RECORDS: Alabama 2-0, Duke 1-1
PREDICTION: Alabama 47-17
KEYS TO THE GAME:
--Alabama can't suffer a letdown. This might not have the marquee billing that last week's game against old rival Penn State did, and it definitely isn't as important as next week's showdown at Arkansas, but the Crimson Tide can't afford to lose any games if it wants a guaranteed shot at defending its national title.
--Duke must find ways to make stops defensively or else its offense will be under such extreme pressure to score every time it has the ball that it's bound to run into trouble. There's definitely a major gap in depth between these teams and the Blue Devils will need a few bounces going their way in order to have a chance in the game's latter stages. The Blue Devils might have a few big plays that can create problems for the Crimson Tide, but there's also the matter of producing some sustained drives.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
Facing a defense that was supposed to be one of the best in the nation, Alabama sure made things look easy against Penn State, controlling the game with a dominant running game and an efficient passing attack. The addition of Mark Ingram to Alabama's backfield only promises to make the Crimson Tide tougher, as Trent Richardson has proved that he also might be one of the best running backs in the country. Wide receiver Julio Jones has found ways to get open against double coverage in the first two games this season, but has struggled -- by his standards -- dropping a couple of catchable balls. Right tackle D.J. Fluker has been a strong addition to Alabama's offensive line, which has helped protect QB Greg McElroy on passing downs.
And yes, the Crimson Tide has allowed just six points through two games, but there have been some noticeable struggles at times this season. Penn State freshman QB Rob Bolden moved the ball effectively in spurts against the Crimson Tide. That might be a concern heading down the road with a game against Arkansas' Ryan Mallett looming on the schedule, but Saturday's game against Duke should provide the Crimson Tide with yet another breaking-in period for its young, inexperienced secondary. The defensive line will receive a major boost this week, also, as DE Marcell Dareus will return to the field after his two-game suspension.
The Blue Devils have been successful in demonstrating the ability to run the ball better than in recent seasons. But the passing approach is still the preferred manner of moving the ball. Against Alabama, ball control will be vital and that's where trouble could brew for the Blue Devils. Duke was worn down by Wake Forest's rushing attack by the end of their last game and there's no telling what wear and tear Alabama might inflict on the Blue Devils. In two games this season, Duke has been vulnerable to big plays and those have come in all forms -- running plays, passing plays and special teams returns. Members of the secondary have been responsible for a large percentage of the tackles and that's often a discouraging sign.
Crimson Tide: Alabama is one of three teams that haven't allowed a touchdown after outscoring opponents, 72-6, this season. The others are Arizona and Baylor ... Alabama has won the first two games against Duke after losing the first game of the series in the 1945 Sugar Bowl ... The Tide will be making its first visit to Wallace Wade Stadium. The facility's namesake coached at Alabama from 1923-30 and led the Crimson Tide to national championships in 1925, '26 and '30. Coach Nick Saban will attempt to stretch the Crimson Tide's 26-game winning streak in the regular season ... The Crimson Tide have had 18 players make their first start this season, with three players on offense, five on defense and five among specialists ... Senior QB Greg McElroy has a current streak of 138 pass attempts without an interception since his last against LSU last season. It is the third-longest in school history and three behind his personal best. In the absence of injured Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson rushed for 144 yards last week against Penn State. It was the first 100-yard game against the Nittany Lions in 17 games.
Blue Devils: The 1944 Duke team that beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl will be honored at halftime. With the addition of eight sections of temporary bleachers, nearly 4,000 extra seats have been added for the Crimson Tide's visit. Capacity of Wallace Wade Stadium will be 37,845 for the game ... Duke is 0-10 in previous games against No. 1 teams. Alabama's game will represent the third time a No. 1 team has visited Durham, following Pittsburgh in 1937 and Florida State in 1993 ... It will be the first time that a defending BCS national champion has visited an ACC school. ACC teams are 0-6 in teams against defending BCS titlists ... Duke coach David Cutcliffe is a 1976 graduate of Alabama, where he worked as an undergraduate assistant for legendary Hall of Fame coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. To this day, Cutcliffe carries in his wallet a ticket stub and a newspaper clipping of Bryant's 1981 victory over Auburn that made him college football's winningest coach ... Cutcliffe was 2-4 against Alabama during his previous tenure as a head coach at Mississippi ... Duke has a 40-game losing streak to ranked opponents, dating to the Blue Devils' 28-25 victory over No. 13 Virginia on Nov. 5, 1994.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
-- WR Marquis Maze -- The other receiver, a guy by the name of Julio Jones, has been known to receive constant attention from opposing defenses, which allows Maze to often slip into the open field uncovered. He caught just two passes for 28 yards against Penn State but was able to snag a 48-yard touchdown catch in the season opener against San Jose State. His role in the offense is vital, as Greg McElroy needs more than one target when he scans the field. Maze is also working some in Alabama's Wildcat package.
-- DE Marcell Dareus -- His impact Saturday can't be understated. The Alabama defense has continued to thrive without him, but a top 10 NFL prospect simply can't be replaced. He's hoping to build off the 10 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss he amassed as a sophomore.
-- S Will Lowery -- The walk-on has a big role on Alabama's defense by default, but he's made the most of it. He picked off his first career pass against Penn State on Saturday, diving for a Rob Bolden pass and reeling it in to the delight of his teammates and his friends and family back home at Hoover. Lowery made the roster during spring tryouts and is now Alabama's dime back.
-- C Bryan Morgan -- He's going against his home-state team when Alabama arrives for the non-league game. He'll have his hands full against Alabama's defensive front. Perhaps his upbringing will add to his motivation because he grew up an Auburn fan.
-- WR Austin Kelly -- He's back to form physically after a rough preseason when he was hampered with ailments. He made 10 catches against Wake Forest, but he also was the intended receiver for some passes that didn't connect. It's important that he remains a viable option in the passing offense to take some attention off WR Conner Vernon and WR Donovan Varner, who have big-play capabilities.
-- DE Justin Foxx -- He's a redshirt freshman who has shown enough quickness to make some plays in the opening weeks. But how as a 240-pounder he stands up to Alabama's punishing attack could factor into whether the Blue Devils can keep the Crimson Tide under control.
RB Mark Ingram (knee, probable), LB Courtney Upshaw (ankle, probable), DE Maurice Dareus (suspension served, probable).
No injuries reported.