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Thursday, November 15, 2012
Five storylines: Bama vs. Western Carolina

By Alex Scarborough

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- No. 4 Alabama gets the second of three straight home games on Saturday, hosting a 1-9 Western Carolina team at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Here are five storylines for the game ...

1. Recovery mode: Saturday's loss to Texas A&M was the end of a draining three-week stretch of competition for the Crimson Tide. Players are both mentally and physically exhausted, and while they say they're refocused and reenergized for the road ahead, a cupcake game against a 1-9 Western Carolina could be the antidote they need for a full recovery. After back-to-back games of subpar play, a multiple-touchdown blowout could be just what the doctor ordered, giving confidence back to a team in need of it.

2. Lessons learned: Missed tackles, blown assignments, poor execution. Alabama's play has been erratic the past two weeks and Saturday is the time to correct it. Players have said all week they need to get back to the fundamentals. Do that, and there's hope to get back into the title hunt. Don't, and Georgia will take advantage in the title game, if not an upset-minded Auburn team a little more than a week from now. Said tight end Michael Williams: "It's not really about the opponent anyway. We're all going into this game knowing that we still have something to play for. ... We have to approach every game with the same mindset and that's to dominate. And we're going in and try to dominate and come out with a win."

3. Not trying to do too much: While there are certainly a number of things for Alabama to work on in the coming weeks, it's best to avoid the knee-jerk reaction and do too much. The formula worked for eight weeks, there's no need to reinvent the wheel now. It will be interesting to see if Alabama returns to the running game, something it abandoned against LSU and Texas A&M -- the only two games in which UA has thrown the ball more than it ran.

4. Reestablishing depth: The past two games have been down to the wire for Alabama, which has meant starters playing for a full four quarters. With a number of minor injuries to attend to, expect to see more second- and third-stringers enter the game early against Western Carolina, reestablishing depth and providing a break to those who need it. It's likely we'll see both backup quarterbacks (Phillip Ely and Blake Sims), as well as Kenyan Drake taking more snaps at tailback, something he hasn't done since the game against Mississippi State.

5. Figuring out third quarter: Alabama has been downright dreadful coming out of halftime. If it were one or two games, it might be considered a fluke, but 13 points in seven games? Saban said on Wednesday that coaches need to do a better job of knowing what the team did wrong, fixing those errors and incorporating "things that are a little bit different, or a new twist."