These football games against Western Carolina haven’t gone so well for Alabama. Oh, sure, the Crimson Tide won the two previous meetings by decisive scores, 52-0 in 2004 and 52-7 in 2007. The 2007 win, however, was one of five Bama had to vacate in a bizarre NCAA ruling. And there’s no way to know how much the 2004 game cost the Tide.
In 2004 Alabama had opened the season with a couple of convincing wins, over Utah State and Ole Miss. And then came the laugher against Western Carolina. Bama had a 31-0 halftime lead. On Alabama’s first series of the second half, quarterback Brodie Croyle ran out of bounds and planted his right foot to slow his momentum. When he did, his right knee blew out, ending Croyle’s season and sending the Tide to an eventual 6-6 record.
There are good things that can come from playing a Western Carolina. One of them is getting starters out of the game as quickly as possible and giving back-ups a chance to perform.
The Crimson Tide hosts the Catamounts at 11:21 a.m. CST Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The SEC Network will televise the game regionally.
Alabama is 9-1 this season, but coming off its lone loss of the year, a 29-24 setback at the hands of Texas A&M. Western Carolina is 1-9 with the lone win coming in the first week of the season.
The Tide is ranked fourth in the latest Bowl Championship Series rankings, leading six Southeastern Conference teams in the top nine of the BCS rankings, a first for any conference. Bama is followed by 5. Georgia, 6. Florida, 7. LSU, 8. Texas A&M, and 9. South Carolina.
Alabama is ranked fourth in the nation in the Associated Press and Harris polls and fifth in the Coaches Poll conducted by USA Today.
The Southeastern Conference has had at least five teams ranked in at least one AP Top 25 poll every year since expansion. This season, as in last season, the SEC had at least five teams ranked in every AP poll. Since 1992, the SEC has had at least 5 teams ranked in the AP Top 25 a total of 251 times, an average of 11.95 times per year. Since 1992 (counting 2012), the SEC has had at least 5 teams ranked for at least 10 weeks in 17 of the last 21 years.
As the season nears its end, individual player awards are anticipated for several Tide players. Here are the latest updates on awards with implications for Alabama players:
Cornerback Dee Milliner – Nagurski Award, Thorpe Award, Bednarik Award,
Linebacker C.J. Mosley – Butkus Award, Bednarik Award,
Quarterback A.J. McCarron – Maxwell Award, Davey O’Brien Award, Walter Camp
Center Barrett Jones – Capital One Academic
Placekicker Jeremy Shelley – Lou Groza Award
Shelley is the only kicker in the nation yet to miss an extra point (46-46) or field goal (10-10) attempt this season.
Although by all accounts Alabama has not played well the last two weeks in squeezing past LSU in Baton Rouge and losing to the Aggies in Tuscaloosa, Bama continues to have some impressive national rankings.
Alabama enters the WCU game 39-for-42 in its red zone trips, tied for fifth in the nation (93 per cent). Alabama is third in the nation in three-and-outs on defense per game at 5.2 per outing (52 in 10 games). Alabama has allowed just 11 opponents to rush for 100 or more yards since 2005, which is best in NCAA major college football.
In national statistics, Bama continues to be first in scoring defense, allowing just 11.1 points per game, and the Tide is 25th in scoring,37 ppg. Alabama is also first in the nation in passing efficiency, although McCarron ranks seventh individually. The Tide is second in the nation in total defense, giving up just 247.8 yards per game. Alabama is eighth in the nation in turnover margin at plus 1.2 per game. The Tide is ninth in pass defense efficiency and in passing defense, allowing 171.6 yards per game. Bama is third in rushing defense (76.2 yards per game) and 30th in rushing (200.3). Cody Mandell is 14th in the nation in punting, 44 average, and the Tide is 30th in net punting, 38.9.
Over the last four years, Alabama’s starting quarterbacks have thrown 16 interceptions in 1,205 pass attempts (one interception every 75.3 pass attempts), while the defense has recorded 73 interceptions in 50 games.