Commentary

Don't sleep on the Hilltoppers

Updated: September 7, 2012, 1:03 PM ET
By Rick Reilly | ESPN.com

Nick SabanTyler Kaufman/Icon SMIWhen Nick Saban looks at a room full of reporters, he often does not like what he sees.

Speaking for media everywhere, Nick Saban, we're sorry.

You were right. We really aren't doing our job correctly and we should've known you were the guy to set us right.

Wednesday, you rightfully tongue-walloped those of us who cover your No. 1 University of Alabama football team for saying your game this Saturday against 40-point underdog Western Kentucky was going to be as one-sided as a Kim Kardashian marriage.

"It's not fair to our players, who need to respect them," you ranted.

And we get that. Journalism and truth and all that are fine up to a point, and the point is when your players actually read it. Apparently, they heard about how they're going to hermetically seal Western Kentucky and then went out and practiced like pregnant water buffalo.

"To make presumptions like you all make -- really, really upsets me," you argued. "It's SO unfair. You don't need to write about that."

Sorry, Coach, that's on us.

I'm personally going to try to do better, starting right now. Here are my predictions for some of this weekend's college football tilts:

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (+40) at No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide -- Western Kentucky is a tremendous team full of stud athletes, many of whom will either be in the NFL next year or in the MIT nuclear science program, or both.

Sure, Alabama has more than 30 players in the NFL right now and Western Kentucky has one, but that's probably because most NFL scouts don't know where the Hilltoppers' dynasty resides (near Russellville, I think). Alabama has never played there.

And, yes, Alabama is coming off a so-called "national championship" and has 13 so-called "returning starters," but with the state of American media being what it is, I bet they don't have any hunger left at all!

And don't forget Western Kentucky has won eight of its last nine, none against BCS teams but many against schools that have yet to drop football.

This one is like Lady Gaga: It could go either way.

Savannah State Tigers (+70.5) at No. 6 Florida State Seminoles -- Savannah State should bounce back big from its 84-0 heartbreaker at Oklahoma State last week. Many of its players weren't permanently maimed in that game and the Savannah State trainers have come up with cleat-proof face masks for this one, so expect a barn-burner.

So what if the so-called "historians" say Savannah State is the largest "underdog" in college football history? What do historians know? The Tigers should still be pumped up from their 21-point win over Edward Waters College in 2009, so expect this one to be tighter than mortgage loans.

And don't forget, there's always the very real chance that the Florida State bus could get lost going from the team hotel to the stadium.

Fresno State Bulldogs (+34.5) at No. 4 Oregon Ducks -- Fresno State is due. It's been eight years since the Bulldogs beat a ranked team and eight is enough! All they need is some positive press before the game and who knows what could happen?

Sure, everybody talks about how blur-fast Oregon RB De'Anthony Thomas scored three touchdowns in only seven touches last week in a shellacking of Arkansas State (horribly underrated, by the way), but what they don't mention is that Thomas could get the flu or might leave his cleats at his girlfriend's apartment.

Good luck, Bulldogs!

New Mexico Lobos (+37) at No. 17 Texas Longhorns -- Under new coach Bob Davie, the longtime TV announcer, New Mexico is sure to outshine the Longhorns in all three facets of the game -- postgame interviews, diction and making eye contact with the camera.

As for the game, star Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro intimated that the biggest danger to Texas is the media, just as it is in Alabama. "We need to get our head out of the magazine and start to play hard and fast," Vaccaro said in an actual quote.

Again, we feel badly for the role we played in this.

That's why we in the media are so grateful to Coach Saban for reminding us how to do our jobs.

You've yelled at us before, Coach, but we just don't seem to get it.

Remember when you got mad at us for writing about how you like to "oversign" too many players and then suddenly dream up nutty reasons for not honoring your half of the promise? Like suddenly giving them NCAA-uncounted "medical scholarships" when they're not hurt? Or "greyshirting" them, which means they have to sit around their parents' house waiting to enroll a semester or two later? Or labeling kids who were bolting for lack of playing time as "discipline problems" who've been dismissed? (Much better for your image.)

Remember how you yelled at us for questioning your honesty, especially after you promised LSU you'd never leave and then did, for the Miami Dolphins? And how you swore you weren't considering leaving the Dolphins and then did, for Alabama?

So we hear you, finally. Who needs honesty when you have a program to protect?

You tell us you don't want compliments? Done.

Sure hope it helps!

Rick Reilly | email

Columnist, ESPN.com