The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers had a stellar 2015, winning a school record 12 games. After a season opening victory, things don’t get any more difficult than they will this week. The Hilltoppers travel to face the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide Saturday afternoon. The kickoff from Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama is set for 3:30 pm ET and can be seen on ESPN2. Alabama is currently a 28.5 point favorite according to the Vegas oddsmakers with the over/under set at 61 points.
Western Kentucky vs. Alabama Vegas Betting Preview
Western Kentucky opened the post-Brandon Doughty era with a 46-14 dismantling of Rice in a matchup of Conference USA foes. Alabama opened their season with a 52-6 destruction of #20 USC Saturday in a game that clearly set the Crimson Tide above the rest of the nation. The two teams meet for the third time in history in this contest. Alabama won the previous two meetings, including a 35-0 whitewash in Tuscaloosa in 2012 in the last meeting.
Free Pick and Betting Spread Prediction: Alabama -28.5
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Doughty may be gone but the high octane offense that coach Jeff Brohm ran lives on for the Hilltoppers. Western Kentucky jumped to a 16-0 lead after one quarter and led 30-7 at halftime. The defense forced a pair of turnovers and the team recorded a safety just 96 seconds into the game to open the scoring. When it was all said and done, Western Kentucky rang up 649 yards of offense and 23 first downs. The defense held Rice to 291 total yards in the game. It’s a safe bet that it’s a tougher road going to Tuscaloosa.
Mike White, who transferred from South Florida, won the starting job and got the keys to college football’s answer to a Lamborghini. He didn’t disappoint in his debut, hitting 25 of 31 passes for 517 yards with three touchdown passes. White became just the third quarterback in school history to throw for 500 yards in a game. The run game struggled as the team finished with 97 yards on 30 carries. Anthony Wales led the way with 15 carries for 58 yards and two scores. Nicholas Norris (seven receptions, 147 yards, two TD) and Taywan Taylor (five catches, 165 yards), who were a part of the deadly Hilltoppers passing attack last season, were a force again here. Nacarius Fant contributed five receptions for 44 yards and a score.
Alabama, undergoing a quarterback change once again, took a little bit to find its footing. Once it did, they were off and running, burying USC in a deluge of points and stifling defense. The Crimson Tide lived up to its billing on the defensive side of the ball. Alabama held USC to a total of 195 yards and 11 first downs in the game. The turning point of the game may have come late in the first quarter: Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts fumbled and USC recovered at the Alabama 48 yard line. The defense stiffened, forcing a three and out. Alabama took control the rest of the way.
Nick Saban played two quarterbacks and won’t tip his hand as to the playing time for either QB this week. Hurts was 6 of 11 passing for 118 yards and two scores. He contributed 32 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Blake Barnett was 5 of 6 for 100 yards and a touchdown through the air. Damien Harris was the leading ground gainer as he carried the ball nine times for 138 yards. Bo Scarbrough added 36 yards and a score on 11 carries. In the passing game, USC shut down Calvin Ridley (two catches, nine yards) so the Crimson Tide looked for other targets. ArDarius Stewart reeled in four passes for 113 yards and two scores while O.J. Howard had three catches for 39 yards. Gehrig Dieter, in his first game with the team after transferring from Bowling Green, caught a 45 yard scoring pass.
Western Kentucky proved they can move the sticks and pile up points against a conference foe. Trying to do that on the road against the #1 team in the nation is a different story all together. There’s no doubt the Hilltoppers will throw everything they have at Alabama. The Crimson Tide doesn’t wilt easily and coming off a big win over a ranked foe, Saban won’t let them overlook Western Kentucky. Alabama wins comfortably at home.
Alabama is 4-1 ATS in their last five at home, 4-1 ATS in their last five on grass and 7-2 ATS in their last nine vs. teams with winning records.