‘Bama natives ready to play at home

Lucas Aulbach

Saturday’s game against No. 1 Alabama is an important one for the Toppers, but holds special significance for six WKU players.

The Toppers have six players on the roster from Alabama, and while some of them had mixed feelings about the school in their youth, they share the same views of the Crimson Tide this week.

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“I was an Alabama fan growing up — not anymore,” junior linebacker and Fayette, Ala., native Chuck Franks said. “I’m a Tops fan, 100 percent.”

The state of Alabama is a hotbed for college football. The two schools that have won the last three BCS Championships, Alabama and Auburn, reside in the state and host some of the country’s most fanatical supporters.

Sophomore defensive end T.J. Smith, a Hazel Green, Ala., native, grew up an Auburn fan. He said the fact that he’s playing the team he grew up rooting against provides some motivation this week.

“We really don’t like Alabama — anything about Alabama,” he said. “Dad, he didn’t like Alabama. Momma didn’t like Alabama, so I didn’t like Alabama.”

Franks has about 30 friends and family members from the state coming to the game and said he’s been warning the Toppers about the environment.

“I’ve been telling them to expect the worst,” Franks said. “It’s going to be a huge crowd. We’ve got to stick together, get the signal from the sideline and just lock in.”

O-line faces biggest challenge this season

Senior guard Adam Smith knows the Toppers face an uphill climb this weekend.

He called the chance to line up against Alabama’s top-ranked defensive line “exciting.”

“It is a challenge and you’re going out and trying to prove something to the country,” he said. “They’re the No. 1 team in the country, and we take pride in trying to go show the country that we can run the ball against a team like that.”

WKU ran for 244 yards against Austin Peay.

With starter Keshawn Simpson out with an injury, WKU’s rushing game will run through junior Antonio Andrews and freshman Leon Allen, with freshman Marquis Sumler chipping in.

Smith said the personnel loss gives WKU more to prove.

“We go into this week just like any other week, and we’re going to try to show the world that we can run the ball against them,” he said.

Saban talks about Toppers

As Alabama holds down the No. 1 spot in the polls this week, many people might think the Tide are looking past this game toward its SEC schedule.

One person in the Alabama program has his eyes set on WKU, though — coach Nick Saban.

The three-time national champion coach told the Alabama media this week that WKU is not a team to be overlooked.

“We have a tremendous amount of respect for them,” he said. “They’re probably, in my opinion, the best team in the Sun Belt.”

He also praised WKU junior linebacker Andrew Jackson.

“I think he’s an SEC player, no doubt,” Saban said. “He really plays the game the way you like to see defensive players play it.”