We were correct that the Mississippi schools had their best teams in years, but we underestimated just how good they would be. Raise your hand if you predicted we would come to a point this fall when Mississippi State would be ranked No. 1 and Ole Miss would be ranked No. 3 and receiving first place votes in both polls. To paraphrase Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen: Put your hand down. You’re a liar.
As the night wound down Saturday evening, I texted a buddy saying, "So basically... the Mississippi schools are the two best teams in the country, and LSU is slightly better than Kentucky, who can very realistically win the east. We are in bizarro world."
Alabama held firm at No. 7 in the Amway Coaches Poll after a 14-13 win at Arkansas on Saturday.
Auburn dropped below the Crimson Tide, falling to No. 8, but Michigan State jumped Alabama, going from No. 8 to No. 6.
How the game was won: Well, it certainly wasn't pretty, as Alabama did absolutely nothing on offense for most of the first three quarters. But quarterback Blake Sims engineered an eight-play, 56-yard scoring drive that was capped with a 6-yard touchdown pass to receiver DeAndrew White with 12:36 remaining. After that, it was just more ugly, ugly offense on both sides before Landon Collins officially ended it with an interception with 1:59 left.
Game ball goes to: Alabama's defensive line was the only consistent and impressive part of the Crimson Tide's win. A'Shawn Robinson and his teammates put good pressure on Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen, but more importantly, the line helped hold the SEC's top rushing team to a season-low 89 yards and 2.3 yards per carry.
The honeymoon is over at Alabama: It feels like ages since Alabama hung 42 points on Florida and Lane Kiffin was being tabbed the best coaching hire this past offseason. In the two games since, the Crimson Tide’s offense has sputtered, and they were lucky to escape Arkansas with a 14-13 win on Saturday. Quarterback Blake Sims played OK as he went 11-of-21 for 161 yards and two touchdowns, but the running game never got going and Amari Cooper was held to just two catches for 22 yards. There was one point in the fourth quarter when Sims tried to convert a fourth-and-1 by jumping straight up, and Nick Saban looked like his head was going to explode. It didn’t appear as if the Alabama coach loved the play call or the execution. Kiffin’s offense better pick it up when Texas A&M comes to town next weekend.
At this point, there is no way to overstate how much we miss Ryan Kelly. Somebody ship that boy some antler spray.
First, Blake Sims went vertical on a quarterback sneak needing just a few chain links at the Arkansas 43.
"Well that was the ugliest looking quarterback sneak I ever saw," Nick Saban said. "I mean we run the quarterback sneak and we teach a guy how to run a quarterback sneak and we never ever taught that. Lane (Kiffin) wanted to run a different play and I didn't really want to hand the ball off. I thought we could make two inches on a quarterback sneak. But I was wrong and it was my fault on that one."
Sims didn't make excuses.
"I just tried my best to compete for the first down," Sims said. "I jumped. I shouldn't have ever done that. I learned from my mistake and hopefully coach will give us another chance and I will get that quarterback sneak."
Let's just say my home (or rather, my father-in-law's home) was not a quiet place when Sims inexplicably went airborne. Whatever happened to the wildcat on short yardage? We ran that a few times against Florida and it went well, then we promptly shelved it and haven't seen it since.
Both of Alabama's lost fumbles Saturday came on punts during the first quarter. Senior Christion Jones, who entered the season as a first-team All-SEC returner, couldn't hold onto the ball when he unnecessarily tried to grab it in a crowd. A bouncing punt later in the quarter deflected off sophomore Maurice Smith and was recovered by the Razorbacks.
Alabama put the ball on the ground two other times on special teams, but were able to recover both. Landon Collins' fumble on a third quarter kickoff was scooped up by linebacker Ryan Anderson while Cyrus Jones' fourth quarter fumble on a punt was picked up by Trey DePriest. Three of the four guilty parties are juniors or older.
"All of those were poor decisions made by good players who I have a lot of confidence in," Saban said. "They've been good decision-makers in the past, and I think sometimes they want to make a play so bad that they push it a little too hard and get anxious then make poor judgments.
"One of these days we are going to focus enough on it in practice that they won't happen in games, but I'm not giving up on these guys, I promise you that."
Well, that makes one of us. Honestly, at this point, we might be better off if the punt coverage sprinted off the field as soon as the ball was kicked.
On a night when Alabama didn't generate any sustainable, consistent offense, the Crimson Tide's defense held tough against one of the nation's best rushing attacks. The Razorbacks, who entered Saturday's game tops in the SEC and among the best in the nation with an average of more than 300 rushing yards per game, finished with just 89.
For some perspective, Arkansas had 165 rushing yards in last year's 52-0 loss to Alabama. Arkansas gained just 5 in Saturday's second half and finished with an average of 2.3 per carry. It was the kind of statistic that mattered immensely in a game Alabama won by the slimmest of margins.
It's not a stretch to say Alabama probably wouldn't have won Saturday if JK Scott didn't have the game he did. Scott was busier than he's ever been this season, and he seemed to only get better as the game unfolded.
Scott averaged 44.2 yards per punt and downed seven of his eight punts inside Arkansas' 20-yard line. The only punt that didn't land inside Arkansas' 20 was booted from inside Alabama's 10-yard line. Fittingly, it was the only punt that was followed by points, as Arkansas pounced three plays later with a long go-ahead touchdown pass.
Yeah, I don't think it's a stretch to say that at all, and in the immediate aftermath of the game, I considered Scott to be the MVP. This is a young guy that has come up big for us this year in a position of need.
After a few weeks of narrow point spreads and even tighter results, Alabama's back to being a healthy favorite in its return home.
The Crimson Tide opened as a 14-point favorite to beat No. 21 Texas A&M when the Aggies visit at 2:30 p.m. CT Saturday. Handicapper Danny Sheridan set his line at two touchdowns while VegasInsider.com moved from an 11-point spread to 14 ½ points in a matter of 15 minutes.