Western Carolina vs. Alabama: Complete Game Preview
Just two weeks ago, Alabama was at the top of its game, ranked No. 1 in the nation with the help of the nation's best defense.
But after barely escaping LSU in a game where the Tide was clearly not the best team on the field and then being upset by a Texas A&M team that was apparently on some sort of mission, Alabama is suddenly mortal.
Headed into this week's tilt with college football also-ran Western Carolina, Alabama must realize that all is not lost just yet.
National title aspirations are still remotely reachable and a date with Georgia in the SEC title game is likely. First, though, Alabama needs to get right.
Here is a preview of the game with Western Carolina.
How Alabama Fared Last Week
Well, the unthinkable happened last Saturday as the new kid on the SEC block came in and took it to the Tide, knocking Alabama off by a 29-24 score.
Texas A&M, led by freshman sensation Johnny Manziel, racked up 20 first-quarter points and severely gashed the confidence of the Alabama defense.
The Tide did everything they could to rally and handled itself pretty well offensively once it finally got the Aggies' high octane offense off the field.
Unfortunately, a furious comeback was silenced just two yards short of the goal line and the Aggies were the ones celebrating in Tuscaloosa.
How Western Carolina Fared Last Week
The Catamounts jumped out to an early lead at home against Southern Conference rival Tennessee-Chattanooga two weeks ago before giving away 29 unanswered points in a 45-24 loss to the Mocs.
They were off last week.
This left Western Carolina with 22 consecutive conference losses and a 1-9 record. The Catamounts have not won since their season opener.
This will be the last game of the season for Western Carolina.
What This Game Means for Both Teams
For Western Carolina, this is the end of the line. Seniors will likely strap it up for the last time ever and the underclassmen will look forward to hopefully more successful days next year.
The Catamounts get almost a half-million-dollar payday for making this trip, though, and will surely benefit from the extra cash flow.
Aside from the check it will receive, WCU will do what it can to keep from getting embarrassed, however daunting that task might be.
As for the Tide, this is a game that Alabama needs now more than ever. Alabama needs to get back to basics, to iron out some kinks and to get its confidence back.
Sure, beating up on a much smaller and out-manned opponent doesn't do too much for confidence, but being able to see something that went right on game film come Sunday could go a long way.
Alabama will surely have its mind on next week's Iron Bowl with Auburn, but lack of focus should not be much of a problem in this game.
Players to Watch for Alabama
Alabama will be looking to heal up a little Saturday, and most of the starters could use some long-overdue rest. If things go according to plan, Alabama should be well into its depth chart by the second half.
This will be a good day to see how backup quarterbacks Phillip Ely and Blake Sims do in extended playing time. The same goes for backup running back Kenyan Drake who has virtually disappeared since the schedule got tough.
For Tide fans, this game should be seen as two games. The first half should be a rout and the second half should be a virtual who's who of the Alabama bench.
Players to Watch for Western Carolina
Quarterback Troy Mitchell has completed over 60 percent of his passes this season with four touchdowns. He will be throwing most often to Jacoby Mitchell and Spearman Robinson, the Catamounts' leading receivers.
Mitchell also likes to run the ball and has done so enough to lead WCU in rushing yards this season with 570.
Defensively, Rock Williams and Courtland Carson lead the WCU defense and have combined for almost 200 tackles on the season
Alabama Wil Win If...
Well, Alabama is going to win. It's sadly that easy. If they suit up a full roster and bring a football, Alabama will win this game.
Alabama will really come out of this game on top, though, if it manages to put the game away early and take time to heal enjoy the game after that.
College football is extremely stressful for these kids, and it never lets up once fall camp starts.
The Alabama starters could use some time on the sidelines Saturday afternoon just enjoying the fun that is college football. If they can put it away quickly and leave the rest to the reserves, Alabama will have made the most of this one.
Western Carolina Will Win If...
Again, it's just not going to happen. And WCU knows that.
For this day to be positive for the Catamounts past the paycheck they will get, the players need to make the day memorable.
The WCU players were largely ignored by upper-echelon programs and do not often get a chance to play in front of what is likely to be 100,000 people. They need to remember to stop and take it all in from time to time on Saturday.
They need to cherish every moment from the pregame breakfast to the final whistle. If they do, they will have a story to tell for years to come. The score won't matter then any more than it will Saturday.
Alabama is most likely going to work out a little unopposed aggression early on in this game.
The Catamounts will enter the game hoping to keep it close for a while and trying to "win plays" as opposed to worrying about winning the game.
When it is all over with, Alabama will have flexed its SEC muscle with a combination of the power running game and finesse passing attack. Defensively, Western Carolina will struggle to cross the 50-yard line unless they benefit from a turnover.
Final Score: Alabama 56, Western Carolina 0