W2W4 – Western Kentucky

W2W4 – Western Kentucky

Hey!  YOU!  Mr Complacency!  What the hell is wrong with you?  Don’t you know we have a big game this week???  It’s by God Western by God Kentucky!  It’s a team that’s so good, they only allow the western half of the state to compete just to keep things fair for the rest of us!  They are the Hill-TOPPERS!  Not Hill-BOTTOMERS!  You are disrespecting the, who is it again, the Kentucky…Wesleyan…., no?  Well it doesn’t by God matter.  They’ve got helmets, shoulder pads , a mascot – everything!  So get your minds right because it’s a big game, AIGHT!  (And, if you don’t have your minds right, let Nick’s rant get you in the right frame of mind!)

Coming off of an epic beat down of Michigan, Nick Saban is suddenly forced to walk around the football complex and taze any reporter who has the audacity to ask when we’ll get to see Alabama’s young back up QBs against Western Kentucky.  Ely in the first quarter?  Second quarter?  Third quarter, at the latest, right?  I mean, it’s a given that Alabama is going to crush Western Ky so what’s the plan to get the young pups in there?  Nick doesn’t want to hear that.  No, much like Homey the Clown, Saban don’t play that.  To address such fodder would mean he was skipping ahead in the “process” and, as we all know, that ain’t happening.  Not on his watch.  And, to his credit, let down games have been few and far between since he arrived on campus.

Gene Stallings once said, “If you think there is such a thing as an unimportant game, just try losing one” and that’s the attitude that Nick will try to instill into the noggins of his players.  I fear there may be plenty of room up there in the noggin area if the team has “the big head” from handily beating Michigan and ascending back to the #1 ranking.  Nick’s fiery rant likely stems from two letdowns following huge Chic-Fil-A Classic wins:  a 20-6 win over Tulane following the big Clemson victory in 2008 and the mere 20-14 halftime lead over Florida International the week after pummeling Virginia Tech.  There’s no question Bama has the better talent here but he’ll do well to remind the team that Western Ky gave LSU all they wanted and then some for three-quarters last year in Death Valley.  Western Kentucky is a veteran group on offense and defense and they come in with a lot of confidence.  That being said, I’m expecting to see Phillip Ely by the middle of the third quarter.  Anything less would be disappointing and likely inspire Saban-esque rants across the Crimson Nation.  Here’s the rest of W2W4 against Western Kentucky….

W2W4 – Alabama on Offense

While it’s true that WKU boasts of having 4 seniors on their defensive line, they are very, very light in the shorts.  Their front weighs 249, 299, 286 and 250.  I suspect the interior tackles will pose more of a problem than Michigan did but I also think the two ends are going to capitulate faster than a Frenchman can say, “Honey, get the white flag” at the first sound of fireworks.  If Alabamawants to bring the wood, as they will in most games this season, they’ll be able to bring it with authority.  However, given the 11 for 20 performance from AJ last week, I’m thinking Bama will take this opportunity to work out a few kinks in the passing game.  From where I sit, this will play right into the Hilltoppers’ hands and will cause some concern for the Tide faithful for the first couple of quarters.  In the end, Bama’s pluck and grit will writ her name in such crimson flames it will look like napalm bursting across those Pork Chop Hill-toppers.  It’s too bad this game isn’t an early kick because who doesn’t love the smell of napalm in the morning, eh?

 Big Time:  Even when they aren’t appearing on the Jerry Jones Ego-trons, our starting offensive line looks so much larger than life.  As we described above, the W KY defensive line is smallish and I suspect our big ‘uns will be the ones topping these little heaps of Western Kentucky.  It took a while last year but LSU finally imposed their will on the Toppers and there’s no reason to believe the best offensive line in the country won’t eventually have their way.  I do think it will take a little longer than it did against Michigan, though.  Of course, bringing water to a boil takes longer than it takes to dispatch of the Wolverines.

We Talkin’ Bout Practice:  After AJ’s erratic performance in both his attire (you have to click the attire link if you haven’t seen it) and his passing game, I think Coach Nuss will look to get him back on track this Saturday.  I think AJ will attempt more than 20 passes and he’ll complete a higher percentage than 55%.  That being said, the passing game will continue to be a work in progress and it will likely sputter early before taking flight Saturday afternoon.

Rebel Yeldon:  After Saturday, we cried “more, more, more” and I think TJ will get far more than 11 carries this week.  Eddie Lacy continues to look as though he’s not 100% and I don’t think it would make any sense to have him blow a tire in the Western Kentucky game, do you?  Nope.  Therefore, I look for Yeldon, Hart and Fowler to literally carry the load and, if we get to a comfortable lead, I think we’ll see what Kenyan Drake has to offer.  Remember, they took the redshirt off Drake last week so there’s no reason to hold him back.

Christion Crusades:  I’m looking for Christion Jones to reel one in and take it the distance.  Ok, that’s a mighty big limb pick so I’ll scale it back and say he catches something out of the slot and turns a shorty into a long-y.  Thirty yards?  Sounds about right.  They say he’s dynamic with the ball in his hands…

The “I’s” Have It:  The most effective formation we had was a unique one where we employed 2 tight ends AND the I formation.  With Nudie Fowler (hey, Nudie is his real nickname – I prefer The Beast) blocking behind Fluker & Williams, well, it’s not fair.  Look for this formation quite a bit when we decide to get our Brian Van Gorder on and pound the rock like a 70’s, er, film.

Come Fly With Me:  Ok, so I told you we’d throw more.  I also think we’ll complete more and go for more yardage.  Last year, the Toppers gave up 3,137 yards passing (2nd worst in the Sun Belt) so I think we’ll hit on a few and AJ will go over 250 yards in just short of three quarters of play.  I really do think we’ll throw it quite a bit on Saturday.

Pumped Up Kicks:  So, with the emphasis on passing the football in this game, I think we’ll sputter at least twice in the red zone, forcing us to settle for short field goal attemps.

Swami Sez:  A wide receiver will go over 100 yards and I’ll say it’s Kevin Norwood.  I mean, if AJ is going to be winging it, someone’s gotta catch it, right?  I think we throw at least two bubble screens to get the ball into the hands of White, Jones or Norwood.  On that wild, wacky throw that AJ had down around the Michigan 5, we were running a bubble screen but the snap threw AJ off.  I think this will be something we’ll want to work the kinks out of this week.  Brian Vogler will get his first catch of the season.  Phillip Ely comes in, throws three passes and we all take a knee and pray for AJ’s good health.

W2W4 – Alabama on Defense

In order to know what to expect from Alabama, we must first find out a little more about the Hilltoppers.  Aside from having the worst mascot in all of collegiate sports, we need to know what else they look like.  Oddly enough, in this day of the spready spready no huddle fun, Western Kentucky likes to run power football.  They use something that’s as rare as the spotted owl – the fullback.  Apparently, their fullback is a load and he likes to run downhill with a nasty disposition.  Evidently it works as departed senior and current Baltimore Raven Bobby Rainey ran for 1,810 yards and 13 touchdowns last year.  Evidently, even with the loss of Rainey, they have an abundance of talent as their coach says the nation will soon call Western Kentucky “Running Back U.”  I maintain the nation will continue to wonder “Who are U?”  But, laugh as we might, WKU rolled up 596 yards in beating the Peay out of Austin.  With a four-year starter at QB and two seniors teamed with two juniors on the offensive line, it’s unlikely that they’ll gift wrap many presents for the Alabama D.

The Immovable Object:  Western Ky will bring a power running game against a team that typically throttles a running team.  The Toppers do boast of having a ton of experience with 9 returning starters on offense so don’t be surprised if they move the ball more consistently than Michigan did.  Our LBs are used to flowing downhill unabated to the poor soul carrying the ball so the use of a FB typically causes us some problems.  It’s going to be fun to see how power football plays against our defense.

Deja Voodoo:  Tell me if this sounds familiar.  WKU has an athletic quarterback who completes less than 56% of his passes and throws as many to the other team as he throws touchdowns to his own team.  Is that you, Denard?  If WKU can’t run the ball effectively and stay ahead of the chains, history tells us that the Toppers’ QB will be in for a long day.

Wide Open Spaces:  Historically, Alabama has had difficulty covering backs out of the backfield and TE’s down the seam.  WKU tight end Jack Doyle caught 52 balls for 614 yards, so look for a breakdown in the middle of the secondary that makes you wonder “who’s got that guy???”

Rush Hour:  I think you’ll see a totally different approach from the defensive line this week.  Last week, Alabama wanted to build a picket fence in front of #16 to make sure he couldn’t hurt them with his feet.  This week, I think you are going to see a concerted effort by the line to pin their ears back and get to the QB.  I’m sensing at least four sacks, two by Hubbard, one by Dickson and Pettway.  Hubbard and Dickson both played exceptionally well against Michigan and they say Pettway has some Nick Gentry pass rush skills.

Tighten Up:  If you could take away a negative from the Michigan game, it’s the fact that Michigan was able to get deep on our safeties pretty easily with double moves.  I am sure WKU will take a few shots downfield and, while their WRs don’t have elite speed, it will be important to see if Bama’s safeties will be in the right place at the right time.  They’ll be concentrating on stopping the run and that always opens up the play action passing game.  The safeties will be critical this week and I’m not sure Lester will be back for this one to help out.

That’ll Be the Day:  When the Toppers line up for a FG, that might be the time to run to the restroom, grab a hot dog or check your phone (assuming you have some sort of service at the stadium) for scores from other games.  WKU kickers combined to go 5 for 19, a woeful stat that resembles Gene Chizik’s successful tenure at IowaState.

Swami Sez:  Alabama will have fewer picks in this game than they had against Michigan.  Alabama will have more sacks in this game than they had against Michigan.  The score at the end of the first quarter will be closer than it was against Michigan.  So will the score at halftime.  The safeties will blow a coverage in the middle of the field.  Jesse Williams will make his presence known for the first time this season.  DJ Pettway gets a sack Saturday.  Vinnie Sunseri crushes someone near the line of scrimmage and knocks their helmet completely off.  Alabama will play a decent amount of zone coverage and mix in a couple of zone blitzes this week in preparation for the game plan against Arkansas. 

W2W4 – Alabama on Special Teams

First, a standing ovation goes out to Cade Foster.  Here’s to following up a 52 yard miss with a 51 yard bomb that would have been good from 60 yards out.  Credit Nick for sending in Foster as opposed to going for it on 4th and 2.  He knows how important Foster is this season and, to his credit, I think Nick recognized how well Cade had struck the ball all day.  Good for Cade.  I look for him to continue to gain confidence this season.

Second, can I get a wow from you guys regarding Christion Jones’ punt returns?  Dude is fearless!  I love the way he catches the ball and immediately gets up the field with urgency.  Also, credit the blocking b/c he always seems to have room to return the ball.  While it’s not Javy, Marquis or Deuce, the double deuce goes from zero to 60 in a hiccup.  Love.  It.

Lastly, I’m looking forward to seeing the kick return unit get a chance to bring one out.  They didn’t get to return one last week so I want to see what we have back there this week.

Conclusion

Ok folks, I know you are thinking that it’s Western Kentucky and this should be a mauling.  I will not be surprised if they make more of a game of it this week than Michigan did last week.  Why?  Well, for one thing they like to run the football and that shortens the game dramatically.  Now, I do think Alabama tries to work the kinks out of their passing game this week because they’ll surely need it against Arkansas.  I’m looking for some slants, bubble screens and other easy throws to get AJ into a rhythm.  When you review the soft spots in the WKU defense, the secondary is clearly the way to go, so I expect AJ to have a very good day.  Barrett Jones and Nick Saban each said they were disappointed that the offense didn’t show how explosive they could be – I think you’ll try to see them explode Saturday.  While it will take a little while to get it cranked up, I think eventually the passing game begins to click.  Meanwhile, when we are on defense, I think WKU moves the ball a little bit and gets some first downs early which will force us to make some adjustments.  But, in the end, Bama will overcome another post Classic letdown and will eventually dominate the lines of scrimmage and the WKU hills will be topped.

Final Score:  Alabama 44     Western Kentucky 14

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