"Coach is gonna be all krunked up," Crimson Tide cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said referring to Saban's anticipated intensity throughout the week. "You just have to be able to overcome him jumping on you cause he's gonna do it. Everybody knows that. Just being able to go out there and have fun at the same time, just being able to go out there relaxed (is a key to success)."
Games like the one Alabama played Saturday against North Texas often defy examination or even explanation. On its face, a 41-0 victory would appear to be as close to perfect as football can get. Unfortunately, that was not the case Saturday, as Alabama played clearly its worst game so far of the 2011 season. Head coach Nick Saban wasn’t happy, and expressed his displeasure in the locker room after the game. Alabama won a sleepy, sloppy contest against a team that barely belongs in Division-IA, and Saban appeared to know as much as anyone that a similar effort next week against Arkansas is going to yield a much different result.
Through three games this season, Alabama is ranked No. 2 in the nation in scoring defense (6 ppg). Arkansas is ranked No. 8 in scoring (47 ppg). The Crimson Tide is ranked No. 3 in total defense (170 yards per game). The Razorbacks are ranked No. 11 in total offense (517.33). Alabama is ranked No. 5 in passing defense (114.67 yards per game) and No. 2 in passing efficiency defense. Arkansas is ranked No. 8 in passing offense (346.67 yards per game).
LSU/ALABAMA. Back and forth we go. A week after the Tide leapfrogged the Bayou Bengals in the AP poll by the slimmest of margins, LSU's overwhelming defensive performance on the road in Starkville -- and in Thursday night prime-time -- was enough to push them back ahead in the media balloting. Alabama couldn't have been much more dominant than they were in thumping North Texas 41-0 ... but with the game airing on regional pay-per-view, did enough media get a look at it? In any case, the coaches didn't mind; though the Tigers collected five first-place votes to the Tide's four, Alabama's 38-point margin only shrunk to 29. And it's not like the Tide won't have a chance to surge back in front -- possibly for good -- when they tangle with Arkansas in the league's highest-profile game to-date this Saturday.
"Obviously we’ve got a lot of work to do," Wilson said. "You obviously want to come in and beat the heck out of Troy, but you take the positives out of it and you want to have a good grind where you play four quarters before you step into Alabama. "That’s the positive I’m taking from this and I think we’ll be ready come Saturday."
But Arkansas? Their Saturday performance against Troy might be the first one by any of the consensus top three teams in the West you could legitimately describe as "disappointing." After scrimmages against FCS Missouri State and FBS-in-name-only New Mexico, the Trojans were the first Hog opponent of the year capable of doing much more than meekly rolling over ... and Troy did much more than that in Fayetteville, rolling to 457 total yards (three more than the Hogs) and cutting a 31-7 deficit to 31-21 midway through the third quarter. Bobby Petrino's teams made major mistakes on both sides of the ball, turning it over three times on offense -- including a pick-six from Tyler Wilson -- and allowing the Trojans seven plays of 20 yards or more. It might be just a one-week fluke; it might be the Hogs looking ahead to next week's showdown against the Tide; it might be something more serious. Whatever it is, it's the kind of sloppiness we haven't seen yet from the Tide or Tigers--and reason enough to doubt the Hogs can upset the LSU-Alabama apple cart until they do.
No. 14 Arkansas (3-0) at No. 3 Alabama (3-0), 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS: This is arguably the most anticipated SEC matchup of the year so far. Arkansas brings its high-powered offense to Tuscaloosa to face one of the nation's best defenses. If Arkansas wants to really put itself into the same conversation as Alabama and LSU, it needs to win this game.
3. Getting past LSU and Alabama's defense won't be fun: We knew both of these teams had suffocating defenses, but they might have the best defensive units in the country. Both rank in the top six nationally and have combined to allow five touchdowns on the year. LSU hasn't given up one since Week 1 against Oregon. Alabama is allowing 170 yards, while the Tigers are surrendering just 207. Alabama hasn't generated a lot of turnovers and only has four sacks, but moving the ball on the Tide has been tremendously difficult as Alabama is giving up 2.5 yards per play. The Tigers seem to do it all on defense. They fly around and wreak havoc on nearly every play. Defensive coordinator John Chavis had his Tigers one step ahead of Mississippi State Thursday night, turning that high-powered offense into mush for most of the game. LSU has forced seven turnovers (causing nine fumbles in the process) and has five sacks. Its defensive line has been dominant, as teams are rushing for 47 yards a game and 1.6 yards per carry.
Stopping the Trojans (and Alabama next week) is not the real issue here. Troy was a considerable step up defensively from the first two week’s opponents and Arkansas did not respond well. Pass protection was poor and quarterback Tyler Wilson took enough punishment that he went through a post-game consult with medical personnel before being examined by media. Pressure from the Trojans was effective enough to put Wilson on his back even more often than the three times he was sacked. And when he wasn’t on his back, Wilson was on the run and making rushed decisions. He threw an interception and in channeling the Tyler Wilson of three years ago, he fumbled a snap and mishandled another.
"Robert Lester gets back spasms every now and then," Saban said. "He got bent back a little on the play." Center William Vlachos was dazed on a play early in the second quarter and was sidelined for a short time, but he returned before halftime.
While everyone waited to see if Mike Slive or Larry Scott would pull the trigger first, John Swofford quietly added Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC. If there's one thing Swofford does well, it's raid the Big East, where he has now pulled five schools from since 2003.
According to an official from each conference, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott met with the Texas president, William Powers, and Texas Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds in Los Angeles within the past few days and discussed details of Texas’ heading west. Texas had been talking with the Atlantic Coast Conference, but those conversations appear to be over. The process of the four universities heading west is expected to play out over the next 7 to 10 days, but three significant steps must be taken before any type of deal can be consummated.
Part of the timing would depend on how long it takes the Big East to disintegrate. The current waiting period means that Pitt and Syracuse wouldn't join the ACC until 2014, but if the three biggest programs in the conference are ready to bolt and others like UConn, Rutgers and TCU are looking for options, there might be room to shorten the waiting period. The question is what the basketball members will do, since they have no reason to step aside and let other members leave during an expansion cycle driven by football.
Tennessee got the news it had been dreading on Sunday evening. A little more than 24 hours after Justin Hunter, the Volunteers' star receiver, landed awkwardly on his left leg while making a first-down catch in UT's loss at 15th-ranked Florida on Saturday, the Vols announced that the sophomore will miss the remainder of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.