W2W4 – Western Carolina

W2W4 – Western Carolina

The Lighthouse wouldn’t be performing our civic duty if we didn’t provide you all with a little something to watch for against the woeful Western Carolina…what’s their mascot…the Lambs?  With Western Carolina stumbling in with a 1-9 record in the FCS (Division II as we used to know it), their appearance on the Bryant Denny turf will be akin to the lambs provided for the lions in the coliseum.  I don’t know who the mutton-head is that scheduled this game for the, ah – they are the Catamounts, but this cat amounts to nothing more than Saturday morning Tuscaloosa road kill.

With Saturday being a “name your score” day, the outcome of this game will never be in question.  This isn’t Georgia Southern so there will be no drama, no wailing and no gnashing of teeth.  Instead, if there’s any drama or gnashing of teeth it will be trying to recognize a bunch of unfamiliar Alabama jersey numbers as the trot out onto the field for the first time in weeks.  This type of game is good because it provides a week of rest for the full-time players and it prepares the young pups on the team to become attack dogs.  So, here’s what we’ll be watching for this week…

Alabama on Offense

Is anyone else tired of seeing fumbles and interceptions that have plagued the offense for the last two weeks?  Over the last two weeks the nation’s leading team in turnover margin has posted a minus five against LSU and Texas A&M.  And, while Tide has turned the ball over five times in the last two games they have caused no turnovers of their own.  Sigh.  First and foremost this week the Lighthouse wants to see a clean and efficient game from the Bama offense and, in particular, AJ McCarron.  It’s been a while since we’ve had a clean efficient game and we really don’t think it’s asking too much against the 1-9 Catatonics. 

Secondly, we look forward to finally seeing more of the Shakin’ Drake (or Shake N Drake – which do you prefer?) this week!  Kenyan Drake is a talented dude so we are looking forward to seeing him lead the Tide in carries and yards this week while Lacy and Yeldon get a much deserved rest.  Of course, Blake Sims will likely be running the zone read with Drake quite a bit and this alone will get the Lighthouse staff excited enough to finish up our breakfast and turn into the game!  (We are not fans of the 11:00 am kickoffs, btw.)

Lastly, we look forward to watching the second string line make a name for themselves this week as they try to position for more time next year.  Saturday should be a ground and pound kind of day once the second string trots onto the field so we’ll be watching to see which of the backup linemen acquit themselves the best this week.  Out of 121 FCS teams, WCU ranks 119th in stopping the run so we expect to see the second string line play quite a bit.  In particular, we’ll be watching Ryan Kelly because he will almost certainly take over at center replacing Barrett Jones next season.

Alabama on Defense

The best Western offense is to run the football out of a spread formation but, of course, that will be no easy task against Alabama.  And while Carolina has their own freshman quarterback who can run the football, this week will not exactly be Johnny Football part deaux.  The Catamounts list five true freshmen on offense and they sport three young freshmen on their offensive line.  Look for these cats to be on a hot tin roof as Bama’s Big Daddies on defense will likely spend most of their day planting Catamounts in the ground like cotton. 

After John Fulton’s coming out party last Saturday, it looks as though he’ll be going right back to the sidelines as it was discovered that Fulton is suffering from a severe case of turf toe.  I’m sure you’ve seen Coach Saban excoriating Geno Smith in nearly every single game that Smith has played in and that tells us that Nick thinks that Geno can eventually be pretty special. Well, it turns out that “eventually” is now because with Fulton out of commission, Smith will be forced into the starting lineup.  We want to see Geno in coverage and in run support because he very likely may become a fixture in the secondary over the next four games.

The Lighthouse staff is excited about watching the young linebackers like Tyler Hayes (think he wants a little redemption this week after jumping offsides?), Reggie Ragland, and Denzell Devall.  We want to see more of DJ Pettway, Darren Lake and LaMichael Fanning because we think they have a really high ceiling.  We are also looking to see if Landon Collins can show that he’s an athletic upgrade at the safety position because after the last two weeks it’s obvious that another playmaker is needed in the deep secondary.

We expect the Catamounts to do what many other smaller teams have done as they dance with the stars from the Crimson Tide team – one, two, three, kick.  The goal for WCU will be to simply get thru 60 minutes with as few casualties as possible and then go directly to the bank to cash their check.  It’s the last game of a very, very long season for the Catamounts so don’t be surprised if they simply try to run the ball as much as they can to try and make sure they spend more time bleeding time off the clock than they spend time bleeding.  This will be the classic windshield versus bug scenario with Alabama playing the role of the windshield.  Look for all nine Catamount lives to be extinguished by halftime.

Alabama on Special Teams

We’d really like to see Cade Foster bang home a field goal either this week or next week because it’s been quite a while since his last two failed attempts.  At some point he may be have to come onto the field for a critical kick so we’d like to see him coming in off of a made field goal.  The Lighthouse also wants to see Cyrus Jones make a play this week but, more importantly, we just want to see him catch the ball cleanly, please.

Given what we know about the WCU defense, if Bama punts more than twice then we’ll be seeing entirely too much of Cody Mandell.  Speaking of which, has any player on the team progressed more than this kid?  He’s gone from a Barbara Mandrell joke to a field position weapon in less than a year – what an amazing transformation!

What to REALLY Watch For

The Alabama game should be over shortly after kickoff so what you are really going to be watching for will be on other channels.  Here are the games you need to be paying attention to if you want to see Alabama in the BCS version of CSI Miami:

  • Wake Forest at Notre Dame – 2:30 on NBC. 
  • Stanford at Oregon – 7:00 on ABC
  • Kansas State at Baylor – 7:00 on ESPN

The Stanford – Oregon game may be a game to keep an eye on.  Oregon is about as banged up as a team can be on defense and Stanford is the type of team that can control the clock by running the football on the Ducks.  An upset here isn’t likely but, of the three games, it’s the one that presents the biggest challenge to an undefeated team.  Hey, you may say I’m a dreamer – I’m just trying to make sure I’m not the only one!

 Roll Tide!

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