CRAWFORD | Saban touts the Toppers as WKU prepares to visit Alab - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Saban touts the Toppers as WKU prepares to visit Alabama

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AP photo. AP photo.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Alabama coach Nick Saban will face two opponents from Kentucky this season. From some comments he made Monday, it’s pretty clear which one he’s more worried about. Western Kentucky will visit Tuscaloosa on Saturday, and Saban took some time during his weekly news conference to talk about what WKU has accomplished.

“Most people probably don't even know that they were a Top 25 team, finished ranked 24th in the country last year with a 12-2 record and actually won a bowl game and won their conference," Saban said. "And they have a lot of starters back on that team, like nine on offense. Even though they lost the quarterback, they have a transfer quarterback who started at another Division I school. They've got really good skill guys. These guys play with a lot of toughness and a lot of energy. They've got a lot of confidence. 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 it. And they play really tough, physical defensive football.”

Perhaps that’s general coach-speak. But he had more of an edge when talking to reporters about taking blowouts for granted, and about WKU’s quality.

“This is a good team," Saban said, speaking again about the Hilltoppers. "And I know that I'm preaching to the choir here (to reporters) when it comes to what you guys create and what you think. But it is what it is. We had two teams in our league that actually lost to teams that were nowhere near this good (Kentucky lost to Southern Miss and Mississippi State to South Alabama), nowhere near what this team accomplished a year ago, nowhere near the number of players coming back. And a third team (Tennessee) that had to win in overtime (against Appalachian State). 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."

The Hilltoppers are no strangers to these kinds of challenges. They went to LSU last season, played at Tennessee in 2013 and at Alabama in 2012. If there were transition pains in the season-opening 46-14 win over Rice, they weren’t as pronounced as many thought they might be, given that WKU was replacing record-setting quarterback Brandon Doughty with South Florida transfer Mike White.

White threw for 517 yards. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising, since WKU has five starters back on the offensive line, and Louisville native Taywan Taylor out of Pleasure Ridge Park High School at wideout. He is No. 7 in the nation in receiving yards after Week 1, and averaged 33 yards per catch with five receptions against Rice.

Brohm likes the challenge of these high-profile, high-power opponents on the road, and none is more high-powered than the Crimson Tide, which dismissed USC 52-6 in Week 1.

“We’re not blind, we see what everyone else sees. This is the very best team in the country,” WKU coach Jeff Brohm told reporters Monday. “They’ve got tremendous talent, great size, great speed at every position. There are no weaknesses. They’re coached by the best coach in the country. He’s proven it. He’s been there,he’s done that. But our guys will be excited for this opportunity to go down there and play a team the caliber of Alabama, an SEC opponent, the national champions, at their place, their first home game. I think our guys will be ready. They’ll look forward to this challenge, and we’re looking forward to seeing how we measure up. But it will be a tough game, a tough matchup, and we understand how tough it will be.”

Brohm said Saban’s defense against his possession passing attack won’t be a mystery. He said Alabama will attempt to take away everything easy, making the quarterback throw down the field to beat them. White is capable of that, but the trouble with doing it is that it gives Alabama’s talented defensive front more time to rush the passer, and they do it well.

“He’s got the right recipe, the right ingredients,” Brohm said. “They know what they’re doing, and offensively they’ve continued to get better. They’re sound. They wear you down. They try to create a few big plays here and there. They’re not going to shoot themselves in the foot. He knows what he’s doing and he’s got the personnel to do it.”

Brohm and the WKU players saw many of the upsets and near-upsets in Week 1. They’re well familiar with Southern Miss, who was picked to win C-USA last season. They beat the Golden Eagles 45-28 in the C-USA title game a year ago.

For WKU, Brohm said the key will be focusing on each drive, each stop, each play, without worrying about the score or the surroundings. Mainly, he thinks his players should look forward to the game, and see it as an opportunity. For 12 Alabama natives on the WKU roster, the game also is a homecoming.

“The players, the fans, this kind of game is what they look forward to,” Brohm said. “Throughout the entire year, everybody has really talked about this game. I heard about it all summer long and all spring. And everyone is going and wants to watch it and be there. These are the type of games you want to see. And we’ve got some good players on our team and they want to go down there and showcase what they’re about and do the best job they can to help us win and compete against the very best and showcase themselves. I think it will be very important that we’re locked in and focused. When you play a team like this the first thing that can happen is you beat yourselves. You’re going to find a way to make mistakes, you’re going to get down on yourself, you’re going to do some critical things that hurt you. And those are the things we can’t do. . . . We’re going to have to learn to focus, stay locked in regardless of the score. We have to do the small things throughout the entire game. If we can do that and create a few mistakes by them, and maybe they screw a few things up here and there, you never know what can happen.”

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