In 1995, Saban returned to Michigan State as the head coach. "Everybody said, 'Well, you really can't do that in college,'" he said of substituting according to offensive personnel. "And I said, 'Well, you can't do it the other way, because you don't have time to practice everything.' That's how it's evolved into what it is now. "It was cause and effect for me. It wasn't like a new invention."
In its last three games against Arkansas, Alabama has scored 11 touchdowns from 20 yards or longer, nine of them on offense, as Alabama has essentially beaten Arkansas at its own game. "You're caught in a double-edged sword there," Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said. "You've got to load the box and stop the run and then all of a sudden you've got to be able to hold up against their skill outside. "So you've got to be able to stop the run and try to do it with some form of pressure, so it's not just a four-man rush, so you're giving those guys out there the ability to cover."
"Where they made their greatest improvement is how physical they are on their offensive front," Robinson said. "We always felt going into each year ... that they probably weren't going to be the most physical front we had faced with Mississippi State and Auburn's front, but the offensive front they have is big-time physical and our players recognized it right away. "Besides having the physicalness of their running backs, their tight ends, they're awfully good up front and that's where we've got to sit down there and draw the line, play the game with them."
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said he's handcuffed by a schedule that requires two home games off-campus in Little Rock every year, and lately an annual late-September game in Dallas against Texas A&M. So will playing nobody so far hurt the No. 14 Hogs this weekend at No. 3 Alabama? "This will be the fastest pace, the hardest game to date," Petrino said. "Alabama is much faster and more physical than anyone we've played."
"I feel like I can make plays, and me and AJ have good chemistry," Smelley said. "I’m looking forward to making more plays in the future." While Smelley’s numbers stand out for a tight end, he has been one of many for the Tide this season. Twelve players have caught passes for the Tide this season. "AJ spreads the ball out well," Smelley said. "He really goes through his reads and progressions, and he finds the open man."
The Razorbacks did gain 357 passing yards in last season’s game, but have averaged 255 in the three losses. More important: Alabama has intercepted eight passes, which included three critical turnovers in last season’s win. "I think it came from the ball being in the air so much," said Lester, who had two interceptions last year. "We’re a good DB corps. Going against that type of receiving corps, if the ball’s up there, we’re likely to make plays on them."
"I'm just really not into that," Harris said. "I'm not the type of person to have one." Despite opting out of the social media craze in terms of Twitter, Harris was up-to-speed on Alabama's rules concerning Twitter. "They give us clear messages about what to do and what not to do and watching what you put on there, because anybody can see it," Harris said. "Your comments are very important. Just make sure you are saying the right things to represent yourself, not only the team and the university."
Whether or not Alabama’s quarterback hunters reach the passer before the pass, in turn, can’t be the only measuring stick for a defense. Both Penn State and North Texas game-planned to avoid the scenario after Kent State was sacked four times in Alabama’s 48-7 season-opening win. "We had guys running free in the ‘A’ gap and they couldn’t sack him, because he was going to get rid of it," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "He wasn’t going to get sacked. They weren’t running any vertical patterns downfield that took much time to develop where the rushers had a chance."
"We have had a couple good work days," said head coach Nick Saban. "This is a difficult preparation. It is an important challenge for our team starting conference play against a very good team. I like the attention to detail that our players have, and I like the way they have worked for two or three days this week trying to get ready for this game."
Defensively, Arkansas certainly could have played better against Troy. The Razorbacks yielded 457 total yards and 22 first downs. The Trojans were able to rack up 373 passing yards with three touchdowns coming through the air, and all three of those scoring passes came in the final 31 minutes of the ball game.
This weekend the third-ranked Crimson Tide hosts No. 14 Arkansas on Saturday while second-ranked LSU plays in yet another contest with championship implications when the Tigers travel to No. 16 West Virginia. Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower prefers starting conference play with such a pivotal game. "It’s cool to open that way because you know you have two teams that will fight to the end," Hightower said. "Ain’t nobody gonna give up. So whoever comes out the best man in this situation here you have a good chance of going to the SEC championship."
"I’ve been in the system for four years," Wilson said. "I know how it is during game day, it’s tough. I think that’s why offensively we’re so good because he expects perfection. You know, when you mess up even on a small detail you hear about it." The performance against Troy led to what Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee called "tough" team meetings during film sessions on Sunday. McGee reiterated Petrino’s goal of scoring on every offensive possession while also saying he has full confidence in Wilson, who has directed the Razorbacks to an SEC-best 47 points per game this season.
The offensive line continued to operate with the same players at the same positions for all three games to start. Barrett Jones worked at left tackle, Chance Warmack at left guard, William Vlachos at center, Anthony Steen at right guard and D.J. Fluker at right tackle.
"I personally feel like they’ve done the best job against us, rather than the other way around in terms of how they’ve been able to move the ball against us," Saban said. "They move the ball against us as well as anybody we play against and we have a tremendous amount of respect for them. If you do a comparison about how they’ve done and everybody else has done and it would probably prove my point."
Teams' passing efficiency against Vandy is at 80.0, right behind Alabama for tops in the conference, and teams are completing just 48.9 percent of their passes against the Commodores. It’s been tough to throw on Vandy and Franklin expects that trend to continue. "We’re just going to continue to build on that and allow those guys to have some fun and fly around and that’s what we’re doing right now," he said.
Trent Richardson, Alabama. Richardson plodded through the first two games of the season with almost no big plays of which to speak. But he broke out against North Texas, giving him the following impressive stat line: 50 carries for 315 yards (6.3 per carry), six receptions for 36 yards (6.0 per catch), eight total touchdowns. As long as Alabama keeps winning, Richardson will have a chance to overcome his slow start and finish in New York.
"It's all crazy stuff," Pinkel said during a phone interview on Tim McKernan's ITD Morning After show on KFNS 590 AM in St. Louis. "I don't want to spend a lot of time talking about it. It's just a lot of information out there, most of which is probably inaccurate. "But it's also really sad that this league … there's no other league in the nation that's dealing with this kind of stuff. It's the third member we've lost in two years. Obviously we've got problems in our league and we don't fix them. So, it's embarrassing. And it's sad because it has such great potential."