Alabama football coach Nick Saban has narrowed the Crimson Tide's quarterback competition down to two players: redshirt junior Cooper Bateman and redshirt freshman Blake Barnett.
Saban addressed the hottest topic surrounding the Crimson Tide in his opening statement during his Monday news conference opening USC week. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT on ABC.
"Cooper Bateman and Blake Barnett are probably the two guys that we're getting ready to play in this game, and that's the way it's going to be for right now," Saban said. "We're going to try to continue to try to develop all of our guys. We made this choice, we made this decision because it's what's going to give us the best chance to win this game, but it's also about future development of our players.
"We want to play the guy that's the most ready to give us the best chance. We also want to continue to develop guys that can compete at this position in the future. That's kind of where it is right now. There's really nothing else to talk about. Nothing else to say."
Many people believed true freshman Jalen Hurts would be one of the top two quarterbacks. Most signs pointed to Hurts' talent being able to overcome some of his freshman mistakes, but that wasn't the case at least for the season opener.
Saban didn't completely close the door on Hurts playing this season.
"Jalen's got a tremendous future. I think he's got great ability," Saban said. "But I think that what you have to be really concerned about is, is a guy ready to go out there and not just do things that he can do, but can he run the offensive team? If the back's lined up on the wrong side, is he going to put him on the right side? Is he going to be able to point out the protection right so we pick up the blitz?
"These things are things that we want to be able to continue to develop in the players so that when they go out on the field, they can have success. Jalen Hurts has tremendous ability. We are not giving up on that ability and hopefully we'll be able to develop it that at some point this season he's going to be a productive player for us."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
--QB Cooper Bateman seems on target to get his first career start. Bateman took last year's quarterback competition into the third game of the season. He started against Ole Miss and played in seven games. Bateman was pulled against Ole Miss in favor of Jake Coker. Bateman completed 71 percent (37-of-52) for 291 yards with two interceptions and a touchdown.
--WR Calvin Ridley is ready to build off a strong freshman year. Prior to Alabama's trip to Athens, Ridley had 125 receiving yards. Ridley torched the Bulldogs for 120 yards and a touchdown on five catches, including a 50-yard bomb from Jake Coker. Ridley showed his big-play ability last season as 17 of his catches went for 15-plus yards with five of his seven touchdowns coming on plays of 30 yards or more. Ridley led the team with 44 receptions for a first down or scores.
--DB Minkah Fitzpatrick is going to play a big role in Alabama's secondary in his sophomore year. Fitzpatrick will start at cornerback in Alabama's base defense then slide inside to the "star" position in the nickel defense.
--DE Jonathan Allen is one of the best pass rushers in the country. Allen finished second in the SEC last season with 12 sacks. He'll be one of the leaders on Alabama's defense this season.
--OLB Tim Williams was a sack master last season. Despite only playing a situational role, Williams finished the year with 10.5 sacks. He's one of the top prospects in the country for the 2017 NFL draft.