- Alex Scarborough, SEC reporter
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Top-ranked Alabama should have little trouble dispatching Georgia State on Saturday, but there still will be some plenty of items of interest. Here are five things to watch when the Crimson Tide take to the field inside Bryant-Denny Stadium:
1. Replacing Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: Will it be Landon Collins or Geno Smith filling in for the suspended free safety? We haven't heard Smith's name called much this season, but we saw what the talented sophomore was capable of last season when he came on late in the year and locked down the nickel cornerback position. Collins, meanwhile, has continued his upward trajectory, making big play after big play on special teams. He has done more on defense as well, playing nickel corner and some safety.
2. Eddie Jackson's maturation: Sense a theme? Yeah, the secondary is going to be under the microscope Saturday. Eddie Jackson, Alabama's freshman cornerback, played particularly well in only his second career game last weekend, shutting down Ole Miss wideout Donte Moncrief while also turning in a key interception. Jackson has all the physical tools to develop into a shutdown cornerback, but he's still very green. As UA coach Nick Saban said Thursday, teams weren't sure what to expect from Jackson early on but they'll have a scouting report on him soon. How he responds to that focus will be key.
3. Grant Hill gets his chance: Saban called Grant Hill one of the best five linemen on Alabama's roster right now, even though the talented true freshman hasn't seen the field. That will change Saturday, though, because as Saban put it, "He deserves to play." Hill, the No. 1 offensive guard in the 2013 class, has played some tackle and could wind up seeing the field at that position against Georgia State. While it's unlikely Hill unseats any of Alabama's starters on the offensive line, he could develop into a top reserve with some more work.
4. Continuing to establish the running game: Alabama won't meet much resistance up front against Georgia State. So any excuse about not being able to control the line of scrimmage and run the football should go out the door before kickoff. Alabama has been inconsistent moving the football on the ground this season, but the Ole Miss game this past weekend signaled some hope as both T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake went over 100 yards. Expect some of the reserves such as Altee Tenpenny and Derrick Henry to get involved Saturday as Alabama looks to build on its recent success running the football.
5. Competing against itself: Saban acknowledged how uninspiring this weekend might be when he said, "I know nobody is probably excited about this game." But he wants fans and players to forget about that and focus on the game within the game. Saturday isn't about Georgia State. It's about Alabama playing to a standard and continuing to improve. The Crimson Tide has been inconsistent this season, struggling to move the ball on offense and giving up big plays through the air one week before moving the chains seemingly at will and shutting down opponents' passing games the next. Against Georgia State and the slew of unranked opponents that follow, the key for Alabama will be to come out and play to a high standard and establish the kind of consistency that has been lacking of late.
Top-ranked Alabama should have little trouble dispatching Georgia State on Saturday, but there still will be some plenty of items of interest. Here are five things to watch when the Crimson Tide take to the field inside Bryant-Denny Stadium:1.