Alabama's second game of the season made its impressive opener a distant memory for Nick Saban.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Alabama -28 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 93% of bets for this game have been placed on Alabama -28 (View College Football bet percentages).
Alabama (2-0) overwhelmed then-No. 9 Clemson 34-10 on the road in its first game, a victory that vaulted the Tide from a preseason 24th to 13th in the following poll. The young squad, however, didn't come close to matching that performance last week.
Saban's team struggled to a 20-6 home victory over Tulane, which had been forced out of New Orleans by the threat of Hurricane Gustav the prior week.
Javier Arenas returned a punt 87 yards for a touchdown and Alabama did enough to get Saban his 100th career victory, but the coach was hardly thrilled.
"It's a little disappointing. It's our goal to play with consistency ? but we were unable to do that," he said. "We did not make progress as a team."
With Alabama missing injured offensive line starters Andre Smith and Marlon Davis, John Parker Wilson was under pressure all night. He was just 11-of-23 for 73 yards, although he didn't throw an interception.
"We weren't clicking," said Wilson, who helped pace the upset of Clemson by completing 73.3 percent of his passes. "We didn't execute on third downs. We're not consistent. There's a lot of little things we have to correct. It's one thing on this play, one thing on another play."
One area that doesn't appear to need any work is the return game. Arenas brought back five punts for 147 yards - a single-game school record - and had 65 more on two kickoffs. However, Tide running backs Mark Ingram and Glen Coffee, each of whom rushed for at least 90 yards against Clemson, combined for only 118 on 20 carries last week.
Alabama, outgained 318-172 by the Green Wave, will be looking to tighten up its defense as it faces a Western Kentucky squad coming off a strong performance in a win over Eastern Kentucky last week.
Tyrell Hayden ran for 98 yards and a touchdown to pace a ground attack that gained 248 yards, and the Hilltoppers (1-1) shut out the Colonels in the second half en route to a 37-13 victory. Allan Holland completed 24 of 40 passes for 228 yards and scored on a 6-yard run in the second quarter for Western Kentucky, which rebounded from a 31-13 loss to Indiana on Aug. 30.
"Western Kentucky has a good program and a good team, they win a lot of games and have had a lot of success in the six years that (coach) David Elson has been there," Saban said. "They run the spread offense which is a little bit of a problem because it is totally different than what we have played against to this point. It is going to be a whole new preparation for the defensive players which will hopefully be challenging to them."
For Saban, this week's contest will provide Alabama a chance to show the Tulane game was an aberration, and not an early indication that his team that will struggle to find consistency throughout the season.
"It tells me that we don't have the maturity to sort of take ownership and responsibility for playing at a high standard all the time, which is what you would like your team to do," Saban said. "We have to continue to work with our players to get that. We didn't show that maturity in this game and it is something we need to work on."
Alabama and Western Kentucky will be meeting for the first time. The Tide are 15-1 against Sun Belt Conference opponents.
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