TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Western Carolina isn't a team Alabama is taking lightly, especially the Catamounts' offense.
While the level of competition may not be the same, the Catamounts field one of the Southern Conference's most prolific offensive attacks.
Western Carolina is com
ing off a game in which the offense posted 640 yards and 42 points led by quarterback Troy Mitchell, who accounted for all six touchdowns.
"(They) do a nice job on offense, got a nice little quarterback that's a really good athlete that can make plays throwing and running," Tide coach Nick Saban said. "They are mostly a spread team. Any team requires that your players respect the technical parts to what they have to do to be successful in the game and that's why we practice, and that's why we prepare for the game. We are certainly going to do that this way this week playing this team who has really done a nice job all year long."
Mitchell grew up in Mobile, Ala., but played high school football in Houston, Texas. On the season, Mitchell has thrown for 2,320 yards and 18 touchdowns while completing 66.5 percent of his passes. He's also ran for 572 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 4.7 yards a carry. Mitchell, a junior, has started all 11 games this season.
Mitchell's no stranger to the Tide. As a true freshman, he made the trip to Tuscaloosa and played in the game, but didn't have much success.
Mitchell went 4-of-8 for 30 yards two seasons ago.
Unlike two years ago when the Catamounts traveled to Tuscaloosa having won just one game, Western Carolina is 7-4 heading into Saturday's matchup.
"Troy is a guy we've built this team around," Western Carolina coach Mark Speir said in the SoCon's teleconference.
"Since Day 1, he started as a true freshman. Two years ago, he was right down there in Tuscaloosa as a snotty-nose freshman."
In particular, Mitchell is much improved. He was Southern Conference's Offensive Player of the Week following his 448 yards of total offense and six touchdowns on Saturday.
"Troy Mitchell is really an outstanding player, I think, and has made a huge difference in their program," Saban said.
"He does a great job of executing their offense. Probably runs the ball as much as any quarterback we've played all year, but certainly is a very effective passer."
Outside of Mitchell, running backs Darius Ramsey and Detrez Newsome are the Catamounts two biggest threats.
Ramsey has rushed for 753 yards and six touchdowns. He averages 5.2 yards a carry. Newsome has 489 yards and nine touchdowns.
He also averages 5.2 yards per carry. Saban said stopping the trio of Mitchell, Ramsey and Newsome is top priority for the Tide's defense.
"A lot of their play-action runs are tied to passes, which makes it more difficult to defend," Saban said. "We have a tremendous amount of respect for (Mitchell) and the running backs that they have and know that we're going to have to play well to be able to contain what he does and his ability to run the ball, scramble as a quarterback, scramble for first downs on third down. He's been really, really effective doing those things all year long."
-- Contact Anniston Star Sports Writer Marq Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.