TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama’s quarterback competition is down to two candidates for the opener.

The top-ranked Crimson Tide will start junior Cooper Bateman or redshirt freshman Blake Barnett on Saturday night against No. 20 Southern California in Arlington, Texas.

“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,” Coach Nick Saban said Monday.

Chances are, fans will have to tune in Saturday to see who’s going to start and if both will play. It’s hardly a new thing for the defending national champion.

Alabama has carried over battles into two straight seasons – at least publicly – and has been to the playoffs both times with one-year starters Blake Sims and Jake Coker.

Freshman Jalen Hurts and sophomore David Cornwell also had vied for the No. 1 spot. Bateman is the only one of the four to make it into a college game, starting the Tide’s only loss last season against Mississippi. Sims never relinquished the job.

The 6-foot-5 Barnett arrived as perhaps the most highly rated quarterback prospect Alabama has signed under Saban and has beefed up to 211 pounds since his arrival.

Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin have gone with the most experienced candidate the past two years, with strong results. Barnett has been through two spring practices after arriving as one of the nation’s top quarterback prospects.