The heir apparent is, apparently, ready to take on his expected role. University of Alabama junior runnng back Eddie Lacy, limited and slowed in the first two games of the season by nagging injuries, looked fit and ready for Saturday's Southeastern Conference opener against Arkansas. Lacy carried just a dozen times but gained 55 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead a physical Alabama rushing attack that was able to grind out 225 yards in a 52-0 win against the Razorbacks. "I had a great week of practice, and I came in and it felt good," Lacy said. Alabama seemed determined to take a physical stance against an Arkansas defense that had given up 412 passing yards on 68 attempts a week earlier in an upset loss to Louisiana-Monroe. The Crimson Tide passed for an efficient 213 yards, with starter AJ McCarron going 11 for 16 for 189 yards and a score, but the running game took center stage. "That's what coach (Nick Saban) preaches, he wants us to be more physical than the other team," Lacy said. "It's a physical game, and if you come out and hit the other team in the mouth they're not going to respond the way they're supposed to - and we were basically able to do that the whole time."
"I hugged him after that touchdown right after halftime," Jones said. "I kind of felt like he's back. We kind of saw that old Eddie. "I think he's starting to trust his legs again. I'm really pleased with what I saw." Jones said he thought Lacy was beginning to get down about not being healthy before breaking out against Arkansas. "He's just tired of being hurt," he said. "I think he's finally getting healthy. We know he's a great running back when he's healthy."
Alabama's defense: It wasn't just one player on this unit that stood out. This was a collective effort by Alabama's defense to completely smother Arkansas' offense. At halftime, Arkansas had just 46 yards of total offense and minus-4 yards rushing. Things didn't get much better, either, as Arkansas had just 93 total yards and four turnovers with just under 12 minutes left in the game. Twelve of Alabama's players registered tackles for loss against the Hogs. This team prepared to face Tyler Wilson, but got a wide-eyed redshirt freshman in Brandon Allen. It was like sharks with chum in the water. Arkansas never really sniffed the end zone Saturday, losing 52-0.
"It all starts in practice," said Tide defensive back HaHa Clinton-Dix, one of the new faces who waited last year for the opportunity that 2012 has brought. "We work hard in practice, like we’re supposed to. When we do that, it carries over into the games." Most importantly to Saban, Alabama forced five turnovers. Last year, the Crimson Tide led the nation in all four major defensive categories — points, rushing yards, passing yards and total yards. But that team managed only 20 turnovers in 13 games. "We got a lot of turnovers," Saban said, "which is a good thing."
It is still September. It is too early for definitive statements. But there is growing empirical evidence, in twin wakes filled with mangled opponents and wrecked programs, that the two best teams - again - are Alabama and LSU. Worse, the BCS system designed to find the two best teams may once again work correctly (as it did in 2011) and come up with that answer at the end of the year, regardless of what happens on Nov. 3. There is no one in any region outside of the footprint - make that the hobnail-bootprint - that wants a second straight rematch. The warning sirens are already being sounded, with arguments ranging from Alabama's strength of schedule (with no Georgia, Florida or South Carolina except for a possible SEC Championship) to "well, darn it, it just isn't fair." The only argument that doesn't hold water is that it isn't possible. Alabama and LSU really could be the two best teams and might proceed on twin paths of dominance until November. That hasn't happened yet. As Nick Saban likes to ask, how do we know? And the answer is that we don't. But that doesn't disprove the theory either.
The Crimson Tide is No. 1 for the third straight week, and it was almost unanimous. Alabama received 58 of 60 first-place votes. LSU got the other two. The Southeastern Conference rivals were ranked first and second for eight weeks during last season before eventually meeting in the BCS title game. The difference last year was LSU was first and Alabama second -- until the Tide won the national championship game. LSU moved up to No. 2 this week after Southern California's first loss of the season. USC slipped 11 spots to 13th after losing 21-14 at Stanford, which jumped from 21st to ninth. USC was preseason No. 1 in a close vote and slipped to No. 2 after Alabama throttled Michigan to start the season. "We have really been fighting against allowing ourselves to accept average," Tide coach Nick Saban said after a 52-0 demolition of beleaguered Arkansas this week.
The league that has won the past six national championships has the top two ranked teams in the country (again), three of the top five with Georgia moving to the No. 5 spot, four of the top seven with South Carolina ranked No. 7 and six teams (No. 14 Florida and No. 23 Mississippi State) in the Top 25. There are even three others - Tennessee and league newcomers Texas A&M and Missouri - receiving votes. Go ahead and make the banners. The Game of the Century II (or would that be Game of the Century III counting last year's BCS national title game) is Nov. 3 in Baton Rouge. The winner will likely rule over the kingdom that is college football. The loser? Well, it's fair to assume now that team can't be counted out of the national title picture. Even if it doesn't win its league crown. Or its division. That's the power of the SEC.
With Alabama up 38-0 and four minutes to play in Saturday’s third quarter, Saban got it started by pulling quarterback AJ McCarron in favor of his two backups, Phillip Ely and Blake Sims. By the start of the fourth quarter, Alabama’s second-team offense and defense had taken complete control. When the 52-0 rout was officially over, senior walk-on Ben Howell, who hadn’t touched the ball since 2010, had six carries. "I think it’s great for the players," Saban said. "All of these guys want to play. They work hard. They deserve to play. We love to get them to play. "I was real happy. We played everybody that we could play today, I think."
What’s happened to some of the defenses in this league? Yes, Alabama and LSU are still a load on that side of the ball. But when you look around at what’s transpired the first three weeks, in particular this past week, there are more than a few defenses in the SEC that need a serious face-lift. In no real order, Auburn has given up 1,326 yards of total offense and is lucky it’s not 0-3. Of course, a year ago at this time, the Tigers had given up more than 1,600 yards of total offense. Arkansas has given up 110 points in three games, and keep in mind that two of those games were against Jacksonville State and Louisiana-Monroe. Tennessee got into the act on Saturday, too, and was gashed for 336 rushing yards by Florida. The Vols allowed two scoring plays of 75 yards or longer. And then there’s Ole Miss, which was trounced 66-31 by Texas and gave up 676 yards of total offense. The 66 points were the most Ole Miss has allowed in a game since Sewanee scored 69 in 1917.