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November 17, 2012

FOUR DOWNS: Prayers are answered

The University of Alabama faced a lot of questions as it tried to bounce back from its first defeat of the 2012 season. Western Carolina presented a minimal challenge, but UA still wanted to find some answers Saturday.

1. Can Alabama's offense get off to a faster start?

This was an emphatic affirmative. After failing to score a single point in the first quarter in its previous two outings, Alabama was able to put the Catamounts away early. The Crimson Tide scored three touchdowns in the first quarter and was up 42-0 by halftime. UA's defense was able to get stops to put the ball back in the hands of the offense to keep it going.

2. Will the Crimson Tide get its ground game going?

Alabama got back to playing physical football against Western Carolina and seemed intent on establishing the running game. Even with the first-team offense off the field before the end of the first half, Alabama was able to grind out 300 yards on 40 carries, averaging 7.5 yards a pop. More impressively, UA was able to reach the 300-yard mark without a single runner gaining 100 yards, so the load was spread out among six different rushers.

3. How long will the starters play?

The Crimson Tide rotated players into the game from the first series, but the starters were pretty much done by halftime. Quarterback AJ McCarron's last snap came midway through the second quarter, but backup Blake Sims played with the first-team offensive line for a scoring drive late in the first half. By the start of the third period, UA's starters were able to watch from the bench.

4. Does UA get any help in its quest to play for the national championship?

Yes, and in heart-stopping fashion. Alabama needed two of three unbeatens to lose before season's end to have a chance to get back into the Bowl Championship Series title hunt. No. 3 Notre Dame blasted Wake Forest 38-0, but things got interesting Saturday night. Baylor pulled away to beat BCS No. 1 Kansas State 52-24 and No. 2 Oregon fell to Stanford in overtime, 17-14. Destiny?

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