Coach Nick Saban hasn't lost to one of his former assistants since he has been at Alabama, and he will try to extend that streak when his second-ranked Crimson Tide take on South Carolina on Saturday in Columbia, S.C.
Saban, who has yet to lose in 16 matchups against former staff members since 2007, will take his 2-0 team into this SEC opener against Will Muschamp, who was Saban's defensive coordinator at LSU.
Muschamp's Gamecocks are coming off a 72-10 rout of Charleston Southern last week after losing their opener to North Carolina 24-20. As the head coach at Florida, Muschamp lost two meetings to Saban.
"Will Muschamp has done an outstanding job of building a very good program at South Carolina," Saban said.
Saban also had praise for South Carolina true freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski, who was thrown into the starting role when veteran Jake Bentley broke his foot on the last play of the previous week's game. Hilinski responded by completing 24 of 30 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns in the rout of Charleston Southern.
"He certainly didn't look like a freshman quarterback out there," Saban said. "He's a good athlete. He's got a good arm. He was very accurate. He made good decisions. He got rid of the ball. He got the ball out of his hand quickly, and he executed the offense extremely well."
Muschamp praised the confidence Hilinski demonstrated in his collegiate debut.
"I thought he handled himself extremely well for his first start," Muschamp said. "I've had defensive players, other offensive players, much less being the quarterback, have nerves walking out in that environment.
"He handled the moment extremely well and will continue to progress and do the things he feels comfortable with going forward, and because he's so bright and intelligent he'll be able to handle a lot."
Alabama junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is about as comfortable as could be, completing 42 of 55 passes for 563 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions in wins over Duke and New Mexico State.
It helps to have a speedy and deep receiving corps, led by Jerry Jeudy, making an early case to repeat as the winner of the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation's top wideout. Jeudy has 18 catches for 240 yards and four touchdowns this season.
Alabama has outscored its two foes 104-13, and its typically stingy defense has forced six turnovers.
Saban said at this summer's SEC Media Days that his 16-0 record against his former assistants is not a "fair stat."
"They don't take a program over that has the established talent, culture and all that that we have at Alabama," he said. "So when they get the opportunity to establish those things in their program, they're going to be able to beat Alabama and compete with Alabama.
"I think a lot of those guys are going to be able to do that extremely well. Some have done it already. So, I think it's a matter of time until those challenges get greater and greater for us."
Because the teams are in different SEC divisions, they have not met since 2010, when the Gamecocks won 35-21 under coach Steve Spurrier. That won't have much to do with Saturday's game, Saban said.
"I'll ask the players today if when they were in sixth grade do they remember it," Saban said. "If they don't remember it, then I don't know how much it motivates them."
--Field Level Media