TUSCALOOSA, Ala. _ ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit has absolutely, positively no idea who will win the University of Alabama’s quarterback competition between senior Blake Sims and transfer Jacob Coker.

The thing is, he doesn’t think Nick Saban or offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin know who the guy is either. They still may not after Alabama opens the season on Aug. 30 against West Virginia in Atlanta, or plays a couple more games.

“My guess is you almost have to, I think,” Herbstreit said on a conference call with reporters to promote the network’s Saturday Night Football and College GameDay. “We don’t have preseason football, exhibition games like you do in the NFL. I’m not slighting West Virginia in any way, it’s a non-conference game, but during the West Virginia, Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss games they’re going to have to try and find out who they like.

“The only way to really find that out is to get them out there in front of a 100,000 people on national TV. That’s it.”

At this point, a repeat of what happened in 2011 seems fairly likely. At the time, Alabama was in need of a replacement for two-year starter Greg McElroy. AJ McCarron and Phillips Sims split reps during the season opener, but McCarron took every snap Week 2 at Penn State, a 27-11 victory (and the last loss of Joe Paterno’s career) .

“It pretty much got settled that day and AJ took over,” Herbstreit said. “I’m thinking that Nick Saban wants that moment again, whether it’s Week 1, Week 2 or Week 3.”

That’s almost exactly what Saban said during his post-practice press conference Tuesday evening.

“Somebody has got to take the job,” he said. “One day one guy plays really well and you say, ‘Well, that looks like that might be it,’ and the next day the other guy plays really well. I think the good news is we have two guys that I would feel very comfortable playing. I think this competition has helped us develop several players. Alec Morris has actually had a really good fall camp. We feel like’s made a lot of progress as well.

“We’re kind of encouraged by what all three of those guys have done, but I would like to see somebody take the bull by the horns from a leadership standpoint, a consistency standpoint and win the job here sometime. But we’re not going to make a decision until somebody does that.”

Instead of the season opener, a more pressing deadline for a decision may be Sept. 20, when Alabama opens Southeastern Conference play against Florida at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Regardless, Herbstreit is predicting that the Crimson Tide will be one of the four teams to qualify for the inaugural playoff. His other teams are Michigan State, UCLA and Florida State.

“The way Alabama finished its season last year with two losses, one thing that we can say is that this defense is going to be nasty,” he said. “We know they’re going to run the football with the backs that they have, it’s the best group of receivers from top to bottom that Saban’s had since he’s been there. Really the only question mark is the quarterback.”