Three questions for fourth-ranked Alabama (9-1, 6-1) as it heads into Saturday's meeting (11:21 a.m. CT/SECN) with Western Carolina (1-9) at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
A game against a struggling FCS foe comes at a good time for Nick Saban's team.
Why play a game like this?
Because Alabama needed a seventh home game and Western Carolina's softball field needed new dugouts.
While I'm quite certain of the former, the latter may not be accurate in terms of exactly how WCU will use its appearance fee. Put it this way, though, winning in Tuscaloosa isn't on the list of objectives for one of the worst teams in the Football Championship Subdivision.
According to the Catamounts' depth chart for UA, they'll start eight true freshman against Alabama. That's more than a lot junior college teams.
For the Crimson Tide, this week has been about rest and recovery; a needed break from the physical grind of five straight weeks of SEC play and a chance to salve the psychological wounds wrought by last week's loss to Texas A&M.
Alabama will return to its winning ways Saturday. The question is, will the Crimson Tide return to the mistake-free, turnover-margin machine last seen three weeks ago?
With championships on the line the following two weekends, now would be a good time to snap the minus-five turnover skid UA currently finds itself on and get back to being Alabama.
Who do you have in the reserve pool Saturday?
Assuming UA's front line players take care of business, the afternoon should take on the feel of a junior varsity game as snaps should be plentiful for young players and walk-ons.
Offensively, after going two games without a touch, running back Kenyan Drake is a good bet to lead the Crimson Tide in carries. Of more importance, though, will be getting offensive linemen Ryan Kelly, Chad Lindsay, Arie Kouandjio and Austin Shepherd work, especially when looking ahead to 2013.
As for the defense, here's hoping freshman linebacker Tyler Hayes is able to replace last week's mistake with a more positive learning experience.
What are the chances Alabama is once again in control of its BCS title game fate come late Saturday night?
More than anything else, you'll watch Alabama-WCU to kill time until Stanford-Oregon and Kansas State-Baylor, both of which will kickoff at 7 p.m. CT.
Forget about Wake Forest-Notre Dame because that won't be the Riley Skinner-led Demon Deacons taking on the Fighting Irish. And, yes, I remember the Pitt scare from a few weeks ago. Trust me when I tell you that If Notre Dame is going down, it will happen next weekend in Los Angeles.
If Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were part of Saturday's equation, I'd feel much better about Stanford and Baylor (and Alabama). As it is, with Oregon playing at home and run heavy K-State matching up well with the nation's 96th ranked rush defense, there are only two things the Crimson Tide and its fans can do.
Win and wait.
Prediction: Alabama 56, WCU 3.