Both WKU head coach Willie Taggart and Alabama head coach Nick Saban caught the attention of national media this week with their comments in press conferences with local reporters.
With so much chatter surrounding the game, I felt it was time for a little fact checking.
Statement: Saban told the Alabama media he was displeased that many of them were presumptively disrespecting the Hilltoppers.
Fact Check: Partially true. After winning 7 of their last 8 games last year, with the only loss in that stretch coming to then No. 1 LSU (a game in which the Hilltoppers were only down 14-7 at halftime,) WKU returned a large majority of its starters on both sides of the ball this year, and even added Florida transfer Jonathan Dowling at safety. To completely dismiss the Hilltopper's chances in any of their games this year would be asinine.
Having said that, this IS Alabama we're talking about. You know, the team that just dismantled then No. 8 Michigan 41-14 in their season opener. What is the Alabama media supposed to write? That the Hilltoppers have a better chance against the Crimson Tide--in Tuscaloosa--than Michigan did at a neutral stadium?
That's not to say they don't have a chance in this one, and WKU does deserve more press than it's been getting. But it would be silly for the Alabama media to hype the Hilltoppers up the week after the Tide destroyed the previously No. 8 Wolverines in Cowboys' Stadium.
Statement: Saban said WKU middle linebacker Andrew Jackson is 'definitely' an SEC-type player.
Fact Check: True. In fact, this TideSports.com article points out that Jackson is the biggest middle linebacker the Crimson Tide will face this season. The pre-season Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year, Jackson was ranked earlier this summer as one of the top five middle linebacker NFL draft prospects for the Class of 2013 by ESPN's Mel Kiper. The question isn't will he play in the NFL someday, but whether he will choose to go as a junior or senior.
Statement: Saban said WKU quarterback Kawaun Jakes could play in the SEC.
Fact Check: False. Jakes has a career stat total of 33 touchdowns and 28 interceptions, and that's playing the majority of his games against Sun Belt defenses. In his four career games against the SEC (two coming against Kentucky,) Jakes has thrown 29 for 69 (a 42% completion percentage) with one touchdown and seven interceptions. In all four of those contests, Jakes threw for under 100 yards.
The senior did look impressive in this year's season opener against Austin Peay, picking apart their secondary for four touchdowns on 18 for 23 passing. He could be ready for a breakout season. But I need a bit more evidence to declare Jakes, "SEC ready." The Sept. 8 matchup against the Crimson Tide would be a great start.
Statement: Taggart said the Crimson Tide could be the next NFL expansion team.
Fact Check: False. The WKU head coach could have been exaggerating on this one, but regardless, a college team would easily get handled by the NFL's worst team. According to an article on Capstonereport.com, there are currently 34 players active on NFL rosters that attended Alabama. Theoretically, if you took all the players from the Crimson Tide to make it in the NFL the last several years, and then put them all on one team, you wouldn't even have a full roster--let alone a competitive team.
And those are players that ALREADY made it to the NFL, not players still in their college days like the current Crimson Tide roster.
Statement: Taggart said the Alabama roster is full of big, strong individuals that are like "mutants."
Fact Check: True. While they may not all be future stars in the NFL, Alabama has signed 68 recruits with four or five-star rankings dating back to 2009. While many WKU fans watch in-awe of former four-star safety Jonathan Dowling's (the only four-star active on WKU's current roster) play on the field, they need to keep in mind this weekend that Alabama has signed the equivalent of 68 Jonathan Dowlings since 09'.
Statement: Taggart said the 40 point spread against Alabama is "a bunch of bologna."
Fact Check: Mostly True. The Hilltoppers are currently on a 10 game winning streak against Vegas lines (dating back to last season.) In 2007, Stanford handed the USC Trojans (37 point favorites) a 24-23 loss, the biggest upset (in Vegas terms) in college football history. Coincidentally, Taggart was an assistant coach that year for Stanford. If I'm Taggart, I wouldn't put much stock in the Vegas system either.
Be sure to check out our preview for this weekend's game against the No. 1 Crimson Tide here.