Even With Hard Opposition From Hilltoppers, Alabama Will Roll On

Alabama Crimson Tide Takes The Field

Wednesday, September 7, 2016 7:50 PM GMT

Western Kentucky brings its high-flying offense into Tuscaloosa on Saturday to take on Alabama and arguably the nation's best defense. Get your pick and betting preview here. 

Western Kentucky vs Alabama

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS)
Head coach Jeff Brohm has turned Western Kentucky into a legitimate program, leading it to its best season last year since joining the FBS. Going 12-2, the Hilltoppers won the Conference USA title and capped off the campaign with a 45-35 victory over South Florida in the Miami Beach Bowl. They ranked No. 24 in the final AP Top 25 poll for 2015.

Western Kentucky's 44.3 points per game last season ranked second to only Baylor (46.6), though it was first in points (.600) and yards per play (7.1). Brohm returns nine starters to the offense, minus stud quarterback Brandon Doughty, a former two-time C-USA Male Athlete of the Year drafted in the this year's seventh-round of the NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins.

The unit didn't miss a beat in the opener, though, dismantling Rice 46-14 as 18-point chalk. New starting quarterback Mike White slotted in just fine, tossing for 517 passing yards and three touchdowns. The former South Florida signal-caller became one of only eight quarterbacks since 2000 to throw for more than 500 yards while completing 80 percent of his passes in a game.

Central to the offense moving the ball is the O-line, and it will be in for a challenge Saturday afternoon versus last year's best-attacking defense. Brohm goes to the deep ball often, but that requires a few seconds in the pocket; time will be scarce.

Alabama led the nation in sacks in 2015 and made mincemeat of a USC front regarded as one of the best in the country last weekend. The Tide recorded three sacks and nine tackles for a loss in their 52-6 rout over the Trojans. Western Kentucky, although undersized, only gifted three sacks total in two games against SEC defenses last season (Vanderbilt, LSU).

Brohm's defense returns just four starters. The line is its strength with Derek Overstreet, Louisville transfer Nick Dawson-Brents, and Omarius Bryant staffing the trenches.

Western Kentucky is 3-2 SU (2-3 ATS) in its last five games versus the SEC, the three victories coming against Kentucky twice and Vanderbilt. The Hilltoppers last played a ranked SEC opponent in October 2015 against then-No. 5 LSU, losing 48-20 as 16.5-point underdogs. Brohm's men were outscored 34-13 in the second half.

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Alabama Crimson Tide (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS)
Nick Saban doesn't take these types of games lightly, especially on defense. The Tide allow a measly 6.4 yards per game as home chalk of 20 points or more under the legendary head coach, yielding just 202 total yards per contest. Only two opponents, in fact, have crossed the 20-point threshold: in 2007, Louisiana Monroe shocked the Tide 21-14 as 24-point dogs in Saban's first year, as he labored to pull the Tide out of a decade-long slump; and in 2011, Georgia Southern also put up 21 in a losing effort as 43-point pups.

But none of these 20-plus point dogs have the scoring prowess as the Hilltoppers.'They've got one of the most prolific passing attacks that we're going to see and some very good players to implement,' Saban told reporters in the build-up.

Saban will 'probably' play two quarterbacks again, with redshirt freshman Blake Barnett and true freshman Jalen Hurts splitting snaps, bust he's mum on the starter. The two combined to go 12-for-18 with three touchdowns, one interception, and 218 yards passing in the opener. Hurts also rumbled for two scores on the ground, accruing 32 yards on nine carries. It was the 12th time Saban's Tide have crossed 50 points in a game.

Final Analysis
The key to this game, in terms of the betting market, will likely boil down to the Hilltoppers defense. Like most games, it's not going to get much help from the up-tempo offense, leaving the Tide unit with plenty of plays and possessions throughout. Western Kentucky probably keeps it within the realm of possibility at halftime, only to be overwhelmed in the second half by the Tide's strength, speed, and athleticism. We have your free college football score prediction at 42-10 for Alabama, and will lay the 28.5 points with a lean to the UNDER 58 points.

Free College Football Picks: Alabama -29 / Under 61
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

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