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TRips: Three questions for UA-WKU

Three questions for No. 1 Alabama as it heads into Saturday's meeting with Western Kentucky at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Jones will be looking for his first reception of the season on Saturday.

Will we see more from the UA passing game in week two?

When an offense can run the football like Alabama's can, it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the passing game won't be needed at a critical point during the 2012 season. Chances are, though, that somewhere along the line, quarterback AJ McCarron will need to either throw the ball early against a formidable opponent to set up the run or carry his team through the air while coming from behind.

That said, don't mistaken consistency in the passing game for more passing in general. This offense doesn't need to throw it 35 times per game. It just needs to be able to do it well when the opportunity presents itself.

When it comes to a receiving corps that may not feature a true No. 1 option in the first half or so of the season, the more guys McCarron is comfortable with the better.

So in addition to solidifying protection, I'll be interested to see how Christion Jones and Amari Cooper come along in week two. Against Michigan, Cooper had one catch for 15 yards, while Jones was shutout.

McCarron has developed a bond with veterans Kevin Norwood, Kenny Bell and DeAndrew White. And while the trio are good enough to make up a solid top of the rotation, if this group is going to reach its full potential, Jones and Cooper need to be involved on a weekly basis.

Is this secondary ready for what it will see in Fayetteville?

Last Saturday night, Michigan found out what most Alabama observers already knew: Dee Milliner is not the guy you want to attack in the UA secondary. But what about the other guys? With a full game on tape, you know the Arkansas offensive staff is already drawing up double moves for Deion Belue.

You get the sense that this group is still evolving, especially from a depth standpoint. Are the nickel and dime packages set back? Is Nick Perry the long-term answer at money in the dime or will freshman Geno Smith step up at star, sliding Vinnie Sunseri to money in the process? Other than Milliner and safety Robert Lester, how does this group rate in terms of ball skills?

With Arkansas eight days away, tomorrow should tell us a lot about who will line up where when the Crimson Tide defense takes on Tyler Wilson and rest of the Razorback passing game.

Will Nick Saban's latest rant head off a potential letdown?

If Alabama's coach doesn't like all the "positive self-gratification" his team is getting these days, he has only one person to blame: Nick Saban.

After all, he's the chief architect for a program that currently resembles mid-1990's Nebraska. Just without the option. While Saban doesn't have a Lawrence Phillips off the field, it looks like he has three on it.

In terms of dominating teams at the point of attack, the Cornhuskers of 17 years ago had nothing on the current version of the Crimson Tide. This offensive line doesn't need a nickname because the actual names of those who make it up are talked about on ESPN most weekday afternoons between noon and 5 p.m..

Of course, it's not so much the positive recognition of some deserving individuals that sends Saban into Ric Flair mode as it is his disdain for complacency.

Saban likes one thing above all others: getting there. Being there is just something that keeps him from trying to reach the pinnacle all over again.

He's the kind of guy who reaches the summit of K2 and doesn't take time to enjoy the view. Instead, he uses the moment to ponder what it will take to scale Everest.

And that was the purpose of Wednesday's post-practice rant, which, by the way, was anything but spontaneous. The difference between a rant and a tantrum is spontaneity. The fact that Saban prepared talking points for the news conference told you the rant was as much a part of the Wednesday itinerary as practice itself.

In his never-ending battle against complacency, everyone has a role, media included. Six years into the job, Saban's method may be obvious, but it's hard to argue against its effectiveness.

He knows he has a very good team; he just doesn't want a team reliant on youth in some areas to know he knows it. At least, not yet.

With that in mind, it will be interesting to see how UA handles everything that's been thrown its way in the last week, including:

Consensus No. 1 ranking.

A comparison to the New England Patriots with a straight face.

Being tabbed as the 33rd team in the NFL (as a Jags fan, I'd probably have to take UA and the points).

My guess is that a team led by guys like Barrett Jones and Nico Johnson will pass Saturday's test. That doesn't mean UA will play 60 minutes of picture-perfect football, just that it won't trip over the bouquets that have been lobbed its way since Arlington.

As Saban has said (and at times even shrieked) all week, Western Kentucky is better than you think. The Hilltoppers aren't LSU or Arkansas, but they most certainly aren't Florida Atlantic or Western Carolina (or perhaps even Ole Miss), either.

In other words, it shouldn't take a Saban rant to motivate the masses this week. Decent opponent; home opener for the defending (duck!) national champions; and on-going competition for supporting (and perhaps prominent) roles.

That should be enough to get people excited, right? If not, Saban's post-game press conference will be his most colorful of the week.

Prediction: Alabama 42, WKU 7.

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