Defending champion Alabama was supposed to get tested by Michigan. Instead, the Crimson Tide put up 21 points in the first quarter en route to a 41-14 victory over the Wolverines, who entered the game ranked eighth in the country.
It was an early statement by Alabama. Most of the nation's other elite teams were playing overmatched opponents to open the season. The Tide were beating up on a squad that was perceived as a contender, showing they'll be right back in the mix.
Now it's Alabama's turn to face a non-power conference team in Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers come off a 39-point victory in Week 1. Here's all the key information for the game followed by watch to watch for in the second week of action.
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
When: Saturday, Sept. 8 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Watch: SEC Network and ESPN3.com
Listen: WPTQ 103.7 FM (Western Kentucky) or WFFN 95.3 FM (Alabama)
Betting Line: Alabama -40 (Vegas Insider)
Injury Report (via USA Today)
Western Kentucky: Jamal Forrest (questionable, shoulder), Joel German (questionable, shoulder), Mitchell Henry (questionable, hamstring), Tyler Higbee (questionable, shoulder) and Jim Murphree (questionable, shoulder)
Alabama: Jarrick Williams (out, knee) and Chris Black (out, shoulder)
Key Storyline: Is Alabama the nation's top team?
Normally, the college football season starts with one team as the favorite with a handful of others trying to chase them down for the top spot. This season was different with three teams each staking a legitimate claim to No. 1.
That includes Alabama along with LSU and USC. Even though all three teams were terrific in their openers, it's hard not to like what the Crimson Tide did to Michigan. They shut down Heisman candidate Denard Robinson and were efficient on offense.
Given that performance, Alabama should be viewed as the top team until it loses or another one of the big three picks up a more impressive victory.
Top 25 Implications
Although it's a new season, the story remains the same for Alabama. The Tide have to keep winning to remain in the national title conversation. They lucked out last season by making it with one loss, and that's not guaranteed to become an available route again.
The Tide should have no problem with Western Kentucky. Since everybody expects an easy win, it won't have any impact on the Top 25 in one way another unless something unexpected happens like the Hilltoppers keeping it close.
What They Are Saying
Alabama lost several key pieces after winning the national title, but Western Kentucky head coach Willie Taggart doesn't think the team missed a beat, according to Chase Goodbread of TideSports.com.
"It looks like they have the same players back," WKU coach Willie Taggart said of the Crimson Tide's replacements for the players who went onto the NFL last year. "It looks like they just put different numbers on them."
Western Kentucky Player To Watch: Kawaun Jakes
It certainly doesn't come close to beating Michigan, but give credit to Western Kentucky for taking care of business against Austin Peay in its opener. A lot of teams would have been looking ahead to a clash with Alabama and overlooked the game at hand.
Jakes, the team's senior quarterback, completed 18 of 23 passes for nearly 300 yards and four touchdowns. He also scored a rushing touchdown. Making sure he doesn't have nearly as much time in the pocket is key for Alabama.
Since Jakes has been the team's starting quarterback for all four years of his career, he should not get rattled by the situation. That being said, the Tide defense will be quite different than the Austin Peay one he tore to shreds last week.
Alabama Player To Watch: T.J. Yeldon
Eddie Lacy will likely remain Alabama's go-to running back, especially in big games, but it's hard to ignore the game Yeldon had in the opener. The true freshman rushed for 111 yards on 11 carries and scored the game's final touchdown.
It's the type of showing that leaves head coach Nick Saban no choice other than to keep giving him carries. Since Lacy has been dealing with a minor ankle problem, Yeldon should see another increased workload against the Hilltoppers.
He's a perfect example of why Alabama has become so dominant. A dynamic rusher like Trent Richardson leaves for the NFL and Yeldon arrives to help replace him. It's an endless circle and the Tide just keep on winning because of it.
Key Matchup: Hilltoppers running game vs. Crimson Tide rush defense
Western Kentucky racked up 244 yards on 39 carries, an average of more than six yards per rush, against Austin Peay. The sledding figures to get a lot more difficult when faced with Alabama's vaunted defense in Week 2.
The Tide held Michigan to 69 yards on the ground and just over two yards per carry. And that's a team which is built for success in the running game, even without starter Fitz Toussaint, who was unavailable for the game.
Alabama's defense should have little trouble containing the Hilltoppers' attack. The game should be in hand by halftime, allowing some other players to gain experience in the second half in case they are needed as the season goes on.
Alabama 45, Western Kentucky 7
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