TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Coming off the big win over Southern Cal last week, everyone has been patting Alabama on the back.
The Crimson Tide dismantled the Trojans, which reaffirmed Alabama’s place at the top of college football. Nick Saban has heard and read the praise being heaped on his team, and spent all week trying to fight against it ahead of Alabama’s home opener against Western Kentucky on Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
“I think our players need to understand that how you play in games like this, if things don’t go well, that’s basically what you get remembered by,” Saban said. “They’ll be asking you 20 years from now, ‘How’d you guys lose that game?'”
It hasn’t been two decades, but Alabama’s home loss in Saban’s first season (2007) to Louisiana Monroe is still mentioned. Same goes for Michigan’s home loss to Appalachian State that same year. Programs of this caliber aren’t allowed to lose or even play close games against lesser opponents.
It’s easy to look at the names — Southern Cal and Western Kentucky — and automatically assume one is better than the other. But that’s not the case in Saban’s eyes.
Western Kentucky finished last season with a 12-2 record, including 8-0 in Conference USA play. The Hilltoppers ended the year ranked in the top 25.
Like Alabama, the Hilltoppers were dominant in their season opener against Rice last weekend.
Western Kentucky won their 13th consecutive game against a league opponent in the 46-14 victory over Rice. Making his debut with the Hilltoppers, junior quarterback Mike White threw for 517 yards on 25-of-31 passing with three touchdowns. It was just the third 500-yard performance in school history and ties for 10th in C-USA history. White’s 98.3 quarterback rating was the highest rating by an FBS quarterback in Week 1 in the last 10 years, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Western Kentucky receiver Taywan Taylor caught five passes for 165 yards in the opener. Receiver Nicholas Norris hauled in seven passes for 147 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Western Kentucky prefers to spread teams out defensively so we’ll get plenty of looks at Alabama’s secondary in its nickel and dime packages.
Linebacker T.J. McColllum led the Hilltoppers with 12 tackles. The group intercepted two passes. Saturday’s contest isn’t going to be a cakewalk for Alabama.
“These guys play with a lot of toughness and energy. They’ve got a lot of confidence,” Saban said. “They score a lot of points on offense. They’ve got one of the most prolific passing attacks that we’re going to see and some very good players to implement. And they play really tough, physical defensive football. This is a good team. … We had two teams in our league that actually lost to teams that were nowhere near this good. Nowhere near what they accomplished a year ago. Nowhere near the number of players coming back.
“These are not things that we can take at all for granted. We need to get ready to play this game as if we’re playing a really good football team, because we are.”