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College football Week 7 preview: Alabama fans need to show up early

The top-ranked Crimson Tide have scored 124 points in the first quarter, getting TDs on 19 of their 26 possessions that have started in the first 15 minutes.

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) evades a tackle by Mississippi defensive end Tariqious Tisdale (22) during the first half of their NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Oxford, Miss.
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) evades a tackle by Mississippi defensive end Tariqious Tisdale (22) during the first half of their NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Oxford, Miss.Read moreROGELIO V. SOLIS / AP

Fans of top-ranked Alabama have found out that it's not a good idea to extend their tailgate parties past the opening kickoff.

Through their first six games, the Crimson Tide have scored touchdowns on 19 of their 26 possessions that have started in the first quarter. Two of those TDs have come on their first play from scrimmage. In the last three games, those figures are 11 TDs on 13 drives. They hold a 124-21 advantage in the opening period.

"We've always had a good plan," Tide coach Nick Saban said this week. "I think the coaches have done a really good job of developing those first plays in the game that you want to run from a script standpoint. That has been able to take advantage of some situations that we see from the defense. I think the quarterbacks have done a really good job of executing the reads."

Alabama isn't doing too badly the rest of the game, either, outscoring opponents by an average of 56-16 while rolling up 567.5 yards per game. Sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is first in the nation in completion percentage (75.2 percent), yards per completion (19.7) and yards per attempt (14.8).

Last Saturday, Tagovailoa put up these crazy numbers against Arkansas: 10 completions in 13 attempts for 334 yards and four touchdowns. He suffered a sprained knee in the game, but Saban said he has taken every snap in practice this week leading to Saturday night's game against Missouri.

Not all is peaches and cream, however. The Crimson Tide have been outscored, 42-34, in the fourth quarter. The backups to the backups have got to play better.

My pal Tua

Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins has put up almost the same kind of lofty numbers as Tagovailoa. Both quarterbacks are in the Heisman Trophy hunt, and the possibility exists that they could be on opposite sidelines for a College Football Playoff game.

Haskins said he and Tagovailoa met during their high school days and speak every week. Before last Saturday's games, "we sent each other scriptures … just sent out blessings to each other," Haskins told the Eleven Warriors website, which covers Ohio State football.

Haskins had a big day against Indiana, tying a program record with six touchdown passes and completing 33 of 44 passes for 455 yards. But his numbers paled in comparison to Tagovailoa's, and he reached out to 'Bama's quarterback.

"That's pretty cool," Haskins said. "I wish I could do that in one of those games this year."

Any love for App State?

Since losing in overtime to Penn State on Sept. 1, Appalachian State has outscored its four opponents, 204-32. The Mountaineers average 497 yards of total offense and allow just 282 yards per game.

Still, there has been no love for them from voters in the Associated Press poll. But, with a 35-9 road win Tuesday night over Arkansas State, could a top-25 berth be coming?

"I really don't worry about it too much, because I just know if you're taking care of business every week, eventually you'll get in there," App State coach Scott Satterfield told the Winston-Salem Journal after the game. "But we played on national TV [Tuesday night], and people saw us, so hopefully there will be interest, and we'll see how it goes. But, we really don't care."

Heat’s on Harbaugh

Since an opening-night loss to Notre Dame, Michigan has won five straight, and criticism of coach Jim Harbaugh has quieted. But the volume could be turned up again for Saturday night's pivotal Big Ten game against No. 15 Wisconsin.

In his fourth season in Ann Arbor, Harbaugh has managed just a 5-8 record against ranked teams, compared to a 28-4 mark against unranked opponents. The defense for the 12th-ranked Wolverines has been rock solid, leading FBS in total defense (230.5 yards allowed per game). Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson has passed for 1,187 yards and 10 touchdowns.

But Harbaugh is walking the tightrope. Even if his team should get past Wisconsin, he has Michigan State and Penn State coming up on the schedule, not to mention Ohio State. One more loss means no College Football Playoff and little chance of winning the Big Ten East. And the critics will be howling.

Shutout for Big 12?

Oklahoma's loss last week to Texas basically leaves the Big 12 in jeopardy of not having a team in the playoff.

What about West Virginia, you ask? Yes, the Mountaineers are undefeated going into Saturday at Iowa State, but they have a bumpy road ahead, one that includes the Cyclones, Texas Christian, a road test at Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma, plus the Big 12 championship game.

The Sooners and Texas each have one loss, and 13 of the last 16 teams to reach the playoff have had a loss. But they have to deal with contenders from other conferences, and don't forget — the Longhorns lost their season opener to Maryland.

Expatriate of the week

Matt Ammendola, a Lansdale resident who starred at North Penn High School, has kicked nine field goals in 10 attempts this season for Oklahoma State. The redshirt junior made a season-long 48-yard field goal against Boise State. Last season, Ammendola kicked 23 field goals – no other returning Power 5 kicker made more – and led the Big 12 in scoring.

Games of the week

Georgia at Louisiana State, 3:30 p.m., CBS3: The Bulldogs are making their first trip to Death Valley since 2008 armed with a balanced offense. The Tigers committed three turnovers at Florida in suffering their first loss of the season and need to keep winning to keep pace with Alabama in the SEC West.

Washington at Oregon, 3:30 p.m., 6ABC: The Huskies bring a strong defense that has allowed just 13.7 points per game, and will take on an Oregon offense that averages 45.6 points and 503.6 yards of total offense per game. Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert is bolstered by a strong rushing attack.

Central Florida at Memphis, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2: The Knights own the nation's longest winning streak at 18, behind quarterback McKenzie Milton. But the Tigers will be fired up for this one, with one of the nation's most-overlooked players – junior Darrell Henderson, who has rushed for 934 yards.

West Virginia at Iowa State, 7 p.m., FoxSports1: This is a dangerous game for the Mountaineers, seeking to avoid becoming the second undefeated top-10 team in as many years to lose in Ames. The Cyclones upset Oklahoma State last week behind freshman quarterback Brock Purdy (402 total yards).

Wisconsin at Michigan, 7:30 p.m., 6ABC: The Badgers risk their 17-game winning streak in Big Ten regular-season games against the Wolverines, who are flexing their muscles on defense again. Wisconsin's Alex Hornibrook (Malvern Prep) has won 10 straight road games, with 18 TD passes and three interceptions.

Star watch

Ian Book, Notre Dame, QB, 6-0, 203, Jr., El Dorado Hills, Calif.

Since entering the starting lineup this season in place of Brandon Wimbush, Book has led the Fighting Irish to three consecutive one-sided victories, over Wake Forest, Stanford, and Virginia Tech. In those games, he has completed 72.5 percent of his passes for 874 yards and eight touchdowns. In all, he has thrown for nine TDs and rushed for three more this season.