Instant Analysis - Sept. 26
Alabama 35 ... Arkansas 7
I'll bite ... why isn't Alabama the No. 1 team in
I love this Florida team (and I still love it with
John Brantley at quarterback ... he might be a
better pro prospect than Tim Tebow), but no one in
America is more complete than the Tide ... at least
for right now.
The Tide has a phenomenal run defense that will
finish in the top five, if not No. 1 overall (it was
second behind Oklahoma going into this weekend), the
running game has been unstoppable, ranking fifth in
the nation before the Arkansas game), and the
special teams have been solid. After facing
Arkansas, now the Tide can add a great passing game
and a phenomenal pass defense to the résumé.
Everyone know the Tide could play a little pass
defense, but it faced Virginia Tech, FIU, and North
Texas to start the year. They aren't exactly the New
Orleans Saints when it comes to pitching it around,
but Bama proved that it could handle a passing game
by keeping Ryan Mallett to 12-of-35 passes for 160
yards and a touchdown with an interception.
Meanwhile, the Tide passing game was fantastic with
Greg McElroy completing 17-of-24 passes for 291
yards and three touchdowns.
Now, everyone the Tide faces has to prepare for
everything. Bama can do it all.
I'm beginning to think that Alabama is every bit as good as last year's team that started 12-0. In other words, the Tide has as good a shot as anyone of winning the SEC and playing for a national championship.
On a fourth weekend when Ole Miss lost at South Carolina and LSU needed a goal-line stand to hold off Mississippi State, Alabama took control of the SEC West by suffocating an Arkansas team many thought might be dangerous. After the first month of the season, the Tide is rounding into shape even better than Nick Saban could have hoped. The running game is in good hands with Mark Ingram and freshman sensation Trent Richardson. Greg McElroy looks very comfortable behind center as John Parker Wilson heir apparent. And, oh, that defense. ‘Bama has been even more ornery than advertised, holding Arkansas to just one touchdown and 251 total yards. Yup, that's the same Razorback offense that shredded Georgia for five touchdown passes last weekend.
Top-ranked Florida is still the favorite to win the SEC. I get the feeling that Alabama, however, has narrowed the divide considerably in September.
1) "Hello, Willie Martinez? This is Nick Saban speaking. No need to call back; it's okay for me to simply leave a message on your voice mail. I just wanted to ask you: Did you see how many points Arkansas racked up today? Geez—do we here in Tuscaloosa have to maintain the SEC's increasingly overrated reputation for tough, physical defense all by ourselves? Pick up your game, Willie, when LSU goes Between the Hedges. Okay, talk to you later. Bye!"
2) How can an aggressive coach such as Bobby Petrino not go for a first down on 4th and 1 midway through the third quarter, with Alabama leading by 14 points? One blocked rugby punt later, it could be said that Petrino's decision permanently ceded control of the proceedings to the Crimson Tide.
The word before the Alabama-Arkansas game was if the Crimson Tide doesn't put enough pressure on Hogs' QB Ryan Mallett, he's going to pick them apart. Well, the Tide heated Mallett up, and he was extremely uncomfortable all game. The Crimson Tide defense may be the best in the country, and it showed Saturday in Tuscaloosa. Alabama was considered a shaky proposition in the SEC before the season began, and the Tide may well be the class of the conference right now. Arkansas, meanwhile, has talent and potential, but it's not in the class of Alabama. The good news for the Hogs is that neither Mississippi nor LSU looks all that formidable right now, so second place in the West Division may still be a possibility. Alabama, on the other hand, seems to have some offensive spark to go with that great D, and Greg McElroy is showing himself to be more than just a stand-in under center. The guy can throw, and he has a lot of weapons at his disposal. Many were talking about Florida and Texas before the season as the BCS title game participants, but the Tide has forced itself into that discussion.