Early opponent analysis: Alabama facing outmatched FCS foe Charleston Southern
The way Alabama has been mowing down SEC opponents in recent weeks, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone expecting much of a challenge from Charleston Southern despite the Buccaneers’ 9-1 record.
Charleston Southern is having a nice season at the FCS level but lost its only game against an FBS opponent when it was blown out by Troy 44-16 on Sept. 12. And it’s not just that the Buccaneers will be overmatched physically against an Alabama team loaded with players who were four and five-star recruits. It’s also that Charleston Southern’s strengths play right into the Crimson Tide’s hands.
The Bucs have found most of their success in the running game, racking up 230 rushing yards per game while allowing just 101 yards per game on the ground. No offense to Charleston Southern’s pair of junior running backs Darius Hammond and Mike Holloway, but if the Crimson Tide can shut down the likes of Nick Chubb, Alex Collins and Leonard Fournette, there probably isn’t much the Buccaneers running game can bring that will give the Tide any trouble.
Still, Hammond and Holloway are the players to watch on the CSU offense. Hammond has rushed for 734 yards, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Holloway has 515 yards and is picking up 5.9 per carry with 9 rushing touchdowns.
Another junior, Ben Robinson has nearly 400 yards rushing and is averaging 7.2 yards per carry. So while the Bucs don’t have any single back of SEC caliber, their saving grace might be the depth that allows them to keep a fresh ball carrier in the game.
But even if the Buccaneers manage to break off some solid gains against the Alabama defense, they’d also have to figure out a way to stop Derrick Henry and the Tide’s offense. Charleston Southern averages less than 250 pounds across the defensive line and likely won’t have the bodies to match up with Alabama’s offensive line or handle the tough running style of Henry.
CHARLESTON SOUTHERN, A CLOSER LOOK
Best Offensive Player: Darius Hammond, Jr. RB — Hammond is the biggest threat Charleston Southern has for breaking a big play and putting points on the board. Hammond leads the Buccaneers in rushing with 734 yards and all-purpose yardage with 1,384. He’s a threat both running and catching the ball and could easily be listed as the top special teams player as well, serving as the team’s top return man both on punts and kickoffs.
Best Defensive Player: Anthony Ellis, So. DL — Ellis has 34 tackles to rank 8th on the team, but he’s also the Buccaneers’ big-play guy on defense. He has 14 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks. He also has forced 2 fumbles and recovered 1, taking it 61 yards for a touchdown. He’s also picked off a pass and knocked down 11 others. He hasn’t faced an offensive line like Alabama’s, but he’s certainly the player to watch on defense.
Best Special Teams Player: Truett Burns, Jr. P — As mentioned above, Hammond probably deserves this spot, too, but for variety’s sake we’ll highlight Burns. His average of 36 yards per punt isn’t impressive on the surface, but more than 36 percent of his kicks have been downed inside the 20 with just 1 touchback. He’s also got a season-long of 57 yards, so he has the leg but knows the importance of field position.