With week four of the college football season in the books, a few thoughts:
Alabama: Best performance since 2009 for 'Bama as the Tide staked its claim as the top team in the country. The running game was revitalized and the long-awaited pass rush finally emerged with force. Nick Saban mentioned in the postgame that moving forward 'Bama needed to throw the ball better, and he's right. Lost in the post-Arkansas ecstasy is that no one to date has actually forced A.J. McCarron to do anything. LSU will change that. Still, 'Bama must first survive a tough road trip to Gainesville before they get scheduling relief from Vandy, Ole Miss, and Tennessee.
Arkansas: 'Bama remains a bridge too far for the Hogs, but lots of football left to be played and as Arkansas showed last year big things can still come even after an early loss to the Tide. Tyler Wilson probably gets the nod as the toughest quarterback in the conference, but Arkansas will need to protect him better if they expect him to last through late November. Give Petrino credit for making a very smart decision to get him out of the line of fire in garbage time. Even so, with the injuries at defensive end for the Hogs, Texas A&M figures to be a tough out this weekend.
Auburn: Ugly performance against arguably the worst team in college football. Big concern? The offense scored only 23 points off of just 315 yards of total offense, and unless the defense improves significantly that will almost guarantee defeat in conference play. And with that in mind, the defense gave up 14 points and 300+ yards to an offense that hadn't scored a touchdown on the season. Chizik stressed improvement in the postgame, but the Auburn fan base wasn't buying it and if that talk turns out to be hot air then October will be the month from hell down on the Plains. Either way, it feels like Khiel Frazier will be the starting quarterback sooner rather than later. I tend to doubt we'll see Barrett Trotter in late November.
Florida: The Gators romped as usual in one of football's most boring games. Jeff Brantley certainly didn't inspire going 8-14 for 115 yards, but Demps and Rainey had big nights and the defense looks stout. Either way, we'll find out about Florida the next two weekends against 'Bama and LSU.
Georgia: Mark Richt may have temporarily slowed the bleeding with two asterisk wins over Coastal Carolina and Ole Miss, but UGA looked a bit sloppy on Saturday and October will be far tougher than the past two weeks. Isaiah Crowell looks like a budding star, and Malcolm Mitchell may already be the best receiver on the team. The Dream Team is fine. The problem is just about everything else is not.
Kentucky: It took fifteen years but finally Bill Curry football has returned to Lexington. And, you know, with Bill Curry back in college football these days, perhaps these two should have just gotten back together and spared an innocent program. It might take morphine to make it through the UK v. Ole Miss game in early November, and in the meantime LSU will probably commit Deliverance on these guys this weekend in Baton Rouge.
LSU: It's tempting to look at the huge numbers West Virginia posted offensively and say that is a chink in the LSU defensive armor, but realistically 'Bama won't attack LSU in anywhere near the same way that the Mountaineers did, so it's largely irrelevant. Jarrett Lee still looks incompetent, but again... strong running game, strong defense, strong special teams. What else do you need? The Bayou Bengals still look like a carbon copy of 'Bama, and the first team who finds a quarterback who can consistently step up and make some plays in the passing game should be the favorite.
Ole Miss: I don't know what that was, but football it wasn't. Houston Nutt hasn't been fired as of this writing, but that could change any second now and in any event Colonel Reb's season is over before it ever began. A bowl game seems out of the question at this point, and soon all speculation will turn to the next head coach. Also, why did Nick Brassell waste his time signing with Ole Miss?
Mississippi State: You hear all of the high talk, then you drop your first two conference games and find yourselves in overtime against Louisiana Tech. And make no mistake about it, Bully was lucky to even get that far and would have lost had some bad quarterback play not proven a savior when defeat seemed inevitable near the end of regulation. This team might be headed back to Memphis come late December.
South Carolina: Vanderbilt or not, by far the best defensive performance of the young season for the Gamecocks Saturday night. Stephen Garcia needs to go back to drinking, though, and the offense looked dead by scoring only fourteen points to go along with Garcia's four interceptions. And for the second week in a row, Carolina couldn't get Alshon Jeffery involved against a greatly overmatched secondary. At least Marcus Lattimore "only" had 23 touches on the night, though he averaged less than four yards per carry and really produced very little on the ground. As has been the case all year with the Gamecocks, they kept winning ugly while playing bad enough to give the critics plenty of ammunition. This team could be vulnerable against Auburn next weekend with a repeat performance.
Tennessee: Derek Dooley spent his Saturday afternoon in the CBS studios providing analysis and commentary. Who wants to bet he was just auditioning for his next gig when the Vols show him the door?
Vanderbilt: Welcome back, Vandy. To hell with 3-0 starts, nice job with the offense gaining 75 yards all night and scoring negative four points. The 'Dores get an off week to prepare for 'Bama, but if Larry Smith is the trainwreck in his return to Alabama that he was in Columbia, Vandy will be pummeled before they get off the bus.