- Associated Press - Thursday, August 28, 2014

No. 2 ALABAMA vs. WEST VIRGINIA at Atlanta, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)

Line: Alabama by 26 1-2.

Series Record: First meeting.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

The Crimson Tide is on a two-game losing streak. The last time Alabama lost three straight was 2007, Nick Saban’s first season as coach. The Tide lost four straight to close the regular season that year and has lost only nine more times since. As surprising as the Iron Bowl loss to Auburn and Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma last season, dropping a game as a nearly four touchdown favorite would be the most shocking loss Alabama has had under Saban. On the flip side, beating the Tide for the Mountaineers could change the trajectory of a program that has been heading in the wrong direction.

KEY MATCHUP

West Virginia QB Clint Trickett and the passing games vs. Alabama’s secondary. Much of West Virginia’s chances for success this season ride on Trickett’s ability to get coach Dana Holgorsen’s Air Raid offense putting up big numbers again. Alabama’s secondary is talented and experienced but cornerbacks Cyrus Jones and Bradley Sylve have room for improvement.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

West Virginia: The Mountaineers look well-stocked at running back with Andrew Buie, Dustin Garrison, Pitt transfer Rushel Shell and Dreamius Smith all capable of being top-line ball carriers.

Alabama: QBs Jake Coker and Blake Sims. Saban hasn’t said which quarterback will start. He insists the competition has been tight. We’ll all get a better idea of what exactly that means at the Georgia Dome.

FACTS & FIGURES

West Virginia has won 10 straight season openers … Alabama LB Trey DePriest won’t play against West Virginia. Saban said the senior is sitting out one game because of an NCAA infraction, though he gave no details. … In 94 games under Saban, the Crimson Tide has limited opponents to under 300 yards total offense 60 times (64 percent) … In Holgorsen’s 38 games at West Virginia’s coach, the Mountaineers have 24 games with 400 yards or more of offense, 13 games with at least 500 and six games with at least 600.