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Scorcher: No. 2 Bama, New Mexico St meet with temp in 90s

(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

By JOHN ZENOR

AP Sports Writer

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) The heat is on for No. 2 Alabama, and it has little to do with the next opponent.

The Crimson Tide (1-0) faces New Mexico State (0-1) Saturday in a mid-afternoon game at Bryant-Denny Stadium with temperatures that could be in the high 90s. The heat might be the biggest issue for Nick Saban's team, which is favored by 55-1/2 points.

Alabama will be more focused on execution than its opponent after failing to score in the opening quarter against Duke .

Saban, as always, talked about how much respect he has for New Mexico State. He also brought up an unusual analogy for early season challenges: Etch A Sketch.

"I mean, if we go Etch A Sketch with a player, that means he didn't remember anything from camp, he didn't remember anything from last week and we're starting all over (and) we're in trouble," Saban said. "But it's not that they don't know, it's the ability to stay focused, and that's going to be a challenge for us and something that we need to continue to work on.

"And distractions can't bother you. I don't care if it's the weather, I don't care if it's where you're playing. External factors cannot affect players' ability to stay focused and to perform and do their job at the level that we would like."

New Mexico State opened with a 58-7 loss to No. 22 Washington State and faces an even bigger challenge. The Aggies have lost their last three games and five straight away from home.

Of course, the always zoned-in Saban isn't known for relaxing at all for a lesser opponent. The trick is making sure his players - and the fans who have to decide whether to brave the heat - follow suit.

Here are some other things to look for in the New Mexico State-Alabama game:

BACKUP QB

This could be a chance for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's backups to see significant action. Mac Jones and freshman Taulia Tagovailoa, Tua's little brother, both got into the Duke game. Taulia handed off to Jerome Ford for a long touchdown run late in the game. It will be interesting to see if he has a chance to compete with Jones for the No. 2 spot.

PASSING FANCY

Tua Tagovailoa could have a chance for some big plays however long he's in the game. Washington State quarterbacks burned New Mexico State for 507 passing yards and six touchdowns. Tide receiver Jerry Jeudy is coming off a huge game against Duke.

TAILBACK PECKING ORDER

Despite an early fumble, third-team Alabama tailback Jerome Ford rebounded with a long touchdown in the opener. Brian Robinson Jr. is looking to establish himself behind Najee Harris. Freshman Kielan Robinson could get plenty of carries, too.

STAR AGGIES

This is a chance for the Aggies' top players to see how they stack up against one of the nation's elite programs. That includes halfback Jason Huntley, who returned three kickoffs for touchdowns last season and topped 500 yards both rushing and receiving. Linebacker Javahn Fergurson led the nation in tackles per game last season.

TIDE STREAKS

Alabama has some streaks it wants to continue. The Tide has won 83 consecutive games against unranked teams, 17 straight home openers and 26 in a row at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

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Updated September 6, 2019

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