Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide will roll into Fayetteville this Saturday with its first top 10 ranking since 2005.
The Tide, riding a four-game win streak, has shown an ability to finish games and crush a lesser opponent, two important aspects that plagued the team’s 2007 campaign.
In the season opener against Clemson, the Tide’s young, but talented front seven proved they could stop even the best of running backs. The front seven has continued to prove they can dominate and are now tagged as the best rushing defense in the country, holding its opponents to an amazing 42.6 yards a game.
Although they can’t call themselves the best in the country, the ‘Bama secondary isn’t playing too bad themselves. They are only allowing 4.87 yards per attempt, good enough for fourth in the conference.
Overall, the Alabama defense has been quite impressive, only giving up one touchdown on the year.
While the Alabama offense hasn’t been quite as good as the guys on the other side of the ball, they are still sixth in the SEC in total offense. The ‘Bama backfield, led by Glen Coffee and Mark Ingram, are fourth in the conference, averaging 206 rushing yards per game.
Making the holes for the running game is one of the best offensive lines in the nation. (Sorry, no statistics to back that up). Anchored by junior Andre Smith and senior Antoine Caldwell, the Alabama O-line has had a solid season thus far.
With only a few exceptions, the line has given quarterback John Park Wilson time to make plays and has helped Alabama’s stable of running backs rack up yards. To be frank, the big boys up front have dominated the line this year.
The Crimson Tide has looked sharp overall in their first three games. A strange Tulane game raised some questions that maybe the team was heading back to its ways of 2007, playing up to better opponents and down to lesser ones.
However, the Tide came out last Saturday and proved they can dominate a lesser opponent for a full 60 minutes, beating Western Kentucky 41-7.
Now the Tide will open conference play this Saturday with a very winnable game at Arkansas. Then they will head to Athens to take on the third-ranked Georgia Bulldogs, after which they will return to Bryant-Denny Stadium to take on Kentucky.
The UK game is followed by a bye week which will mark the end of the first half of the season. In the second half of the season, the Crimson Tide will face Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa; Tennessee and LSU on the road; and Homecoming (Arkansas State) sandwiched in between. After LSU, the Tide go back to Tuscaloosa to play Mississippi State and then a bye week before the Iron Bowl at Bryant-Denny.
Alabama has the potential to be as good as anyone in the conference.
Are they young? Yes.
Do they have depth? Somewhat.
This is a team that can achieve anything, though. If the Tide can catch a break or two and stay healthy in key positions, this team may just win the SEC West.
If that happens, they would only be 60 minutes away from their first SEC championship in nine years. As we all know, anything can happen in those 60 minutes.
The Tide has started strong, but as Coach Saban will tell you, if they don’t finish, the strong start will mean nothing.
One thing is for sure, though. Even if Alabama doesn't win the West this year, they will not be going anywhere in the near future.