TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Of Alabama’s nonconference opponents not named USC, the home matchup against Western Kentucky on Sept. 10 should be the most competitive in 2016.
Western Kentucky finished 12-2 last season and emerged as champion of Conference USA. The Hilltoppers also defeated one of the two SEC teams on their schedule last season.
Yes, it was Vanderbilt in Week 1, but Vanderbilt football is a part of the SEC, so the Hilltoppers deserve credit for the victory.
With that said, this game still won’t be that close, especially with the Hilltoppers losing star quarterback Brandon Doughty. A three-year starter, Doughty finished his career with 12,855 passing yards, 111 touchdowns and 34 interceptions.
Though it may not seem like that big of a deal, Western Kentucky also must replace kicker Garrett Schwettman, its four-year starter and all-time points-scored leader. Schwettman’s 398 points scored were more than 100 over the previous record, and his 236 made extra points were sixth most in FBS history.
Alabama is scheduled to pay Western Kentucky $1.3 million to essentially be practice dummies for a week.
2015 record: 12-2, 8-0 Conference USA
Coach: Jeff Brohm, 3rd year, 20-7 overall
Returning starters: 7 offense, 4 defense
Game time: 2:30 p.m. CT
Matchup to watch
Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson vs. Western Kentucky defensive end Derik Overstreet
Overstreet started all 14 games at defensive end for the Hilltoppers, tallying 48 tackles (31 solo) and nine tackles for loss, both the most among the school’s defensive linemen. Overstreet also had a pair of sacks on the year, both against Marshall. Overstreet has started 24 consecutive games at defensive end for WKU entering the 2016 season.
Robinson, a two-year starter at left tackle, enters the season on the Outland Trophy watch list and a first-team All-SEC selection.
Robinson is one of the top offensive tackle prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft. If Overstreet can have some success, it would go a long way in building up his draft stock.
Why Alabama will win
… because they’re Alabama is the first thing that comes to mind. No disrespect to Western Kentucky, but teams don’t typically pay opponents for games they think they can lose.
Expect to see a lot of young players for Alabama after the starters put this one away early.
This will be Alabama’s tune-up game after the clash with USC to open the season and before the trip to Oxford, Miss., for some revenge.
Western Kentucky returns all five of its offensive linemen, a 1,500-yard receiver and other key pieces in 2016. But that won’t be enough when the Hilltoppers make the trip to Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Alabama 41, Western Kentucky 6