Who will step up and challenge the almighty Alabama Crimson Tide?
Four weeks into the season, the nation's No. 1 team is outscoring opponents 168-21, outgaining them in total yardage 1,700-740, and forcing them to turn the ball over (12 turnovers has come to equal 70 points on ensuing drives for the Tide).
Heading into the season, Alabama looked like it was going to be tested early and often, playing two top 10 teams in Michigan and Arkansas in the first three weeks. But the Tide all-but ended Denard Robinson's Heisman hopes in Week 1, and then embarrassed a Razorbacks team that rolled over and played dead without their starting quarterback.
Up next for Nick Saban's squad is Ole Miss, a perennial SEC bottom-feeder. Although they scored 31 points in a loss to Texas two weeks ago, the Rebels probably don't have a fighting chance under the lights at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
It would be naïve to say Alabama's first four games have been easy. They haven't been, this is Division I football after all. But the Tide sure is making it look that way.
"I feel like we have a target on our shoulders," said wide receiver Kenny Bell. "I feel like every team comes out and tests us. We're just going out there and playing the best we can and finishing on top."
After a previously second-ranked USC team lost to Stanford last week, LSU landed in the No. 2 spot behind Alabama in both the AP and Coaches polls. This of course brought the date of Nov. 3, aka Alabama-LSU Part Three, to the forefront of college football headlines. But this week, the Tigers were unimpressive in a 12-10 win over a 1-3 Auburn team, which allowed Oregon, who shutout then-No. 22 Arizona 49-0 Saturday, to leapfrog LSU in this week's polls.
The reigning national champions don't have to play SEC East foes No. 5 Georgia, No. 6 South Carolina or No. 11 Florida this season, at least not until the conference championship game in December, so its next ranked opponent won't come until Week 9 when currently ranked Mississippi State comes to town.
"Being tested or not, we're going to do what we've got to do, not matter who it is, no matter what team it is, or what game it is," said wide receiver Christion Jones. "None of that means anything. We have to do what we've got to do to play our best football each week."
And the team doesn't even think it's playing its best football yet. Last week Saban said they're "far from flawless."
"I don't think we've arrived," said linebacker Trey DePriest. "We're getting there. We're trying to establish our identity…and I feel like every game we take a step toward that."
Alabama is about to dive into the meat of its conference schedule and since it hasn't faced any adversity yet, will the Tide be able to handle it once it comes? Because it will come.
"We have pretty good resiliency as a team," said nose guard Jesse Williams. "We practice a lot of situations and stuff like that. We haven't been in those situations this season yet, but I think once we come into it, I think our team is resilient enough to push through it."
Every week the Tide has gotten better, though Saban continually says consistency—in the passing game, in pass protection, in finishing drives—is an issue. But then again, it's only Week 5 and there's still a windy road ahead.
"We're doing good so far," Williams said. "We haven't played to our potential yet. I think we still have a lot in the tank."
And that's a scary thought, especially since there doesn't appear to be another team in the country playing at Alabama's level right now.
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Who will give Alabama a run for its money this season? The Tide has outscored opponents 168-21 in the first four games and there doesn't appear to be a real contender on the schedule until LSU on Nov. 3. And even then, the Tigers don't appear to be living up to their preseason hype.
The Crimson Tide has rolled through the first four week of the season, outscoring opponents 168-21
Jesse Williams (54) blocks a field goal vs. FAU