The GameDay crew talks Fournette, Coker and what makes the Alabama rivalry with LSU so special

The GameDay crew talks Fournette, Coker and what makes the Alabama rivalry with LSU so special

Rece Davis, along with other ESPN announcers, stopped in Tuscaloosa for ESPN College Gameday. CW | Layton Dudley

There might not be a bigger game in college football than Alabama-LSU.

ESPN’s “College GameDay” has been present for four of the last five times these teams faced off in the regular season. Rece Davis said the rivalry has evolved since he was in school.

“Both teams have rivals that are more historic,” Davis said. “They have rivals that perhaps are more bitter, but since Nick Saban got to Alabama there’s no rivalry in college football that’s been more significant.”

Davis said he doesn’t expect Alabama’s defense to completely shut down LSU’s Leonard Fournette. Davis usually gets physically ill when a college running back is mentioned in the same breath as Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson and Barry Sanders. He said Fournette is not at that level, but he’s close.

“He’s a terrific runner,” Davis said. “He strikes fear into opposing and every time he touches the ball, and I think he’s one of those rare guys at running back that every time he gets it you kind of lean forward to see what’s going to happen next.”

Davis has also been impressed by running back Derrick Henry this season. Davis said Alabama’s offensive line will need to play better on Saturday if Henry is going to live up to his potential.

“Alabama has to let Derrick Henry get started,” Davis said. “He’s not a Mark Ingram type back [where] you get penetration in the backfield and Mark gives you a quick jump cut and he’s out of the way.”

As talented as the running backs are Davis said he will be watching the quarterbacks on Saturday night. Quarterback guru George Whitfield said both Jake Coker and Brandon Harris have improved immensely this season.

“I think Coker has just overcome so much early,” Whitfield said. “People forget, yeah he’s an upperclassmen, but he’s still pretty green cause this is his first year starting.”

Whitfield said both quarterbacks will need to play within their systems. Neither quarterback is the star of his team, but both guys belong in the top half of the conference when it’s time to rank the SEC’s quarterbacks.

Whitfield describes Coker’s first few outings ad “hold on to the seatbelt” games, but he is impressed with how Coker has settled down. Coker will need to remain focused when he faces No. 2 LSU.

“This is the defacto quarterfinal for the national championship every year,” he said. “Punting’s okay, but turnovers are not.”

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