For the season, Alabama has fumbled 10 times, even though the Tide has lost only the three. Lester lost one on the interception. Christion Jones lost a fumble on a kick return against Florida Atlantic, and an offensive drive against Michigan ended when Eddie Lacy lost the ball. "The ball has been on the ground too many times, and that's one of the things we worked on last week, and it was on the ground a couple of times (against Mississippi)," Saban said. "It's something we need to continue to work on. Ball security is very, very important."
K Cade Foster - The numbers, especially when they're contrasted with last year's, tell the full story. Foster has three field goals from 50 yards or longer and an overall total of four. Last year? He was 2-of-9 and didn't make any of his attempts from 50 yards or longer. On kickoffs, he's certainly made the most of the new rule that moved them 5 yards down the field. One year after registering just five touchbacks, Foster has 24 after five games. Most importantly for Alabama, he's kicking with as much confidence as he's ever had.
Alabama's real challenger is in the East: With what Florida and South Carolina did Saturday, it's become pretty obvious that those two teams are Alabama's biggest challengers. Neither has a very flashy offense, but in this league, the really good teams win with their defenses. Both have smothering defenses and when their offenses do get the ball, they're pretty efficient and balanced for the most part. Alabama's offense could have issues with both defenses. The Crimson Tide have to make it to the SEC championship if they want a chance to play one of these two teams, but with the way Alabama has been rolling and with LSU having major offensive problems, getting there might be inevitable. Keep an eye on Mississippi State as well. The Bulldogs are undefeated and a win over Tennessee could make their matchup with Alabama a must-see game.
South Carolina is now Alabama's lone SEC threat. The Gamecocks put on an absolute clinic Saturday night against No. 5 Georgia. Throw out the Chicken Curse. As I wrote following the 35-7 rout, Steve Spurrier's team has all the pieces -- a near-flawless quarterback, an elite tailback and a terrifying defensive line -- to be a legitimate national title contender. "If we play like this," he said, "we may have a chance for a real big year. Maybe." That being said, it wouldn't be the least bit surprising if South Carolina turns around and loses at LSU next weekend. A hangover after Saturday night's win in Columbia can be expected, and the Gamecocks haven't played nearly as well on the road as they have at home. But that game is really just a precursor to their Oct. 20 trip to resurgent Florida, a matchup which could decide the SEC East. If either team can make it to Atlanta with one loss and knock off the Crimson Tide, they're going to play in Miami. That's almost a given.
The sense of inevitability just keeps building up, no matter Nick Saban’s efforts to keep his team from believing it. Missouri, Alabama’s opponent this week, lost to Vanderbilt on Saturday and lost quarterback James Franklin for this week. LSU, that one team left on the schedule that looked capable of challenging Alabama on Nov. 3, has put together three consecutive bad weeks. Word is out on LSU’s weaknesses, and Florida was good enough to do what Auburn and Towson couldn’t --- beat the Tigers with it. It’s looking more and more like Alabama won’t play in this season’s version of the "Game of the Century," at least not in the regular season, and the Tide’s first scary challenge won’t come until the SEC championship. Fans and Saban’s players are foolish to believe that, but that’s how it looks on the first Monday in October.
What’s said in the locker room stays in the locker room, except when a voice booms through the walls. The Missouri locker room was a blasting zone of emotion after the Tigers’ 19-15 home loss to Vanderbilt. "It better hurt!" And a moment later… "We are better than that!" Coach or player? I didn’t get the license plate, but the players who spoke afterward understand the stakes. "We’re upset," kicker Andrew Baggett said. "A lot of guys have put a lot into this. The more you put into it,the more it hurts."
"We are constantly trying to teach our players that you play the next play, you are not worried about the scoreboard, you are not worried about the circumstance of the game," Saban said during a weekly news conference. "That is an external factor. You need to focus on what you need to do to execute the very next play, whether you're ahead in the game or behind."
Vandy fans were chanting "SEC!" after the game (cute), and the players and coaches were evidently shouting "That's how you win in this league" after the game. But guess what: if Vandy were missing half of its first string offense, including its quarterback, half of its offensive line, and its most impressive skill position player (be it Jordan Matthews or Chris Boyd), the 'Dores wouldn't be "winning in this league" this year.
How is a team that can’t beat Vanderbilt supposed to be competitive against the nation’s top-ranked team? "As I can see, you don’t have any faith in Missouri, but I do" Missouri cornerback Kip Edwards told a reporter who asked that question. "We can beat anybody. It starts in practice."
Elvis Fisher has been inside more postgame locker rooms in his six years than any player at Missouri, from the joyous to the sullen. As some of his teammates ducked postgame interviews Saturday night, Fisher walked out of an empty locker room, stood in front of a couple reporters and exhaled. I asked if this, a 19-15 loss at home to Vanderbilt, was the lowest he's ever seen this team. "Yeah," he said. "Losing a bunch of games is tough on everyone. I don’t know. Everyone's more pissed off at themselves because we know we're better than that. Sometimes it may not show it on the field, but we're staying together. We know what we have to do. It's just tough."
The buzz surrounding Mizzou backup quarterback Corbin Berkstresser turned to boos at halftime Saturday night. They were not necessarily directed at him but at an offense that has lost its way. And on this night, its starting quarterback. Forced into action when starter James Franklin suffered a strained medial collateral ligament in his left knee in the first quarter, Berkstresser struggled after the offense opened with two efficient scoring drives.
At least one player was ticked off following the loss. During Pinkel’s postgame session with the media, an unidentified player could be heard ranting and raving from the locker room. Media members seemed to agree that it sounded like star defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who is definitely fiery enough – and has the cache with his teammate, because of his remarkable play – to pull off such a display despite being a junior. When asked if the unidentified mystery man was Richardson, sophomore defensive end Kony Ealy – who also had a sack on Saturday – offered a defiant "no." Sasser was also asked who the mystery man was. "I’m not going to talk about that, man – that’s just emotions being high," Sasser said. "It’s not arguing or anything, it’s just guys trying to get us going, trying to keep us together. We’re a team here."