Home opener to provide few answers

September 9, 2016


A 52-6 season-opening route of Southern Cal revealed plenty of strengths in the Alabama lineup, and very little about where it might be thin. The Crimson Tide's home opener against Western Kentucky Saturday (2:30 p.m., ESPN2) might provide even fewer answers, but know this entering Week 2: the UA defense faces a much bigger challenge than the offense.

The Hilltoppers fast-paced offense has at least one future NFL wide receiver in Taywan Taylor, who will challenge Alabama's cornerbacks with as much or more athleticism than USC's JuJu Smith-Schuster did a week ago.

Getting Taylor the ball won't be easy, but WKU's offense gets the ball out quickly and won't give Alabama's pass rush any more of an opportunity than it has to.

Alabama's dime defense will get more game reps, to be sure, and the coaching staff will learn more about CB Anthony Averett's readiness to be a regular in both the nickel and dime looks.

If there is little to be learned this week about the Alabama defense, there might be even less to learn about the offense. Western Kentucky's defense, despite allowing just 14 points to Rice last week, isn't expected to be anything special this year in Conference-USA. There are plenty of new faces in the Hilltoppers front seven, especially at linebacker.

The one area that Alabama struggled on offense last week -- the interior of the offensive line -- should look a lot better against WKU. But a strong performance by the interior trio won't necessarily tell the coaching staff whether its problems have been solved. Put it this way: if Alabama doesn't run the ball effectively between the tackles against the Hilltoppers, you can be certain Ole Miss' athletic defensive front will give the Alabama running game plenty of problems in Week 3. One thing to keep an eye on: Alphonse Taylor. The former starter at right guard is expected to make his season debut after serving a one-game suspension. Don't be surprised if he enters the game and plays with the first unit for a few series, rather than waiting until the entire second offensive line later in the game, assuming UA has the luxury to do so with a comfortable lead.


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