A 52-6 opening win against the No. 20 USC Trojans is not enough to satisfy Alabama football coach Nick Saban. He knows his team has a long way to go to get back to the national title game this season.
“Look, you are what you are based on what you perform in total and no team can be evaluated until they’ve played on a consistent basis for a 12-game season,” Saban said. “We play in a pit bull environment around here. This is a pit bull league that we play in and we have to show that we can get in the league with pit bulls, which I’m not sure we’ve shown that yet.”
This week’s opponent, Western Kentucky, is coming off of a 12-2 campaign that saw the Hilltoppers win their conference championship. They also finished the season ranked No. 24 in the final AP Poll.
The Hilltoppers two losses last season were to LSU and Indiana last season, but they did get a win over the SEC’s Vanderbilt. Last week the Hilltoppers beat Rice in a dominating fashion. Their quarterback, Mike White, threw for 517 yards and three touchdowns against the Owls in the 46-14 rout.
“They are a great team, just like every team on our schedule. They have a lot of great players, they are coming off a great year last year,” running back Damien Harris said. “We’re going to have to prepare for them just as hard as we would prepare for anyone else and be ready to play on Saturday.”
Saban always preaches the need to respect every opponent, and this weekend supplied him with plenty of ammo.
“We had two teams in our league that actually lost to teams that were nowhere near this good,” he said. “Nowhere near what they [Western Kentucky] accomplished a year ago. Nowhere near the number of players coming back.”
Over the weekend, the SEC’s reputation took a few hits as Mississippi State fell to South Alabama 21-20, Southern Miss came back to defeat Kentucky 44-35, and Arkansas just escaped with a 21-20 victory over Louisiana Tech.
Even top teams like No. 9 Tennessee struggled with Group of Five teams. It took overtime for the Volunteers to overtake Appalachian State 20-13.
The Hilltoppers might not be ranked, but Alabama has a different battle to face after game one and involves the game film. Saban said that opposing teams will now know what to look for and what to practice, which makes it that much harder on the young starters on the team. He said it best relates to a time in his own life.
“I was one of these outstanding high school baseball hitters. When I went to college, I thought I would be an outstanding college hitter. Because they never did a book when I was in high school,” Saban said. “They never knew what pitches I couldn’t hit. When they started doing the book in college and figured out that [a] low outside slider, I’d hit a weak ground ball to second base. Then the next thing you know, if you don’t want to hit that pitch, that’s all you see. I’m talking about the kind you don’t even want to run to first base on.”
Other notable quotes:
Saban: “[Defensive lineman] Dalvin (Tomlinson) went back and played in the game. [Wide receiver] Cam [Sims] has got a bruised shoulder. He’ll probably miss a few days and could be questionable for this game, just depending on how he responds throughout the week. I think everybody else will be OK.”
Saban on return of offensive lineman Alphonse Taylor: “Well, Shank’s been a starter around here at right guard. He’s got to kind of earn his way back and that may take some time. But I think our two tackles played, really, pretty well in the game. I think that inside – the inside three – we need to continue to improve and work… Now, Shank coming back at right guard where he played before, he’s powerful guy, he’s a big guy. That might be helpful to us. He’s got to play his way back into it. He’s got to beat somebody out now.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports