We’ve all heard it. “Play them one at a time.” Alabama Coach Nick Saban emphasizes not taking any opponent for granted. The catchphrase of perhaps half the major college football coaches in the nation this year is “We just want to be one and zero this week.”
Saban shouldn’t have any problem keeping his players from looking ahead for the next few weeks. Alabama has a daunting schedule beginning Saturday in Fayetteville when the Crimson Tide takes on the Arkansas Razorbacks at 6 p.m. CDT with ESPN televising the game.
Alabama is ranked first in the nation with a 5-0 record, including a 2-0 Southeastern Conference mark. Arkansas is 4-1, but lost its only SEC game to Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas.
This week, Arkansas is ranked 14th by CollegeFootballNews.com, 16th by the Associated Press, and 17th in the Coaches Poll.
Alabama is ranked first in both the AP and Coaches polls and second behind Ohio State by CFN.com.
What is notable about the polls regarding Alabama’s schedule is that following the trip to Arkansas, Alabama will be on the road at ninth-ranked Tennessee Oct. 15, and follow that up with an Oct. 22 home game against Texas A&M, seventh in the Coaches Poll and eighth by the AP and CFN.com.
Although some pooh-pooh the traditional college football polls, arguing “They don’t matter because the College Football Playoff Selection Committee is going to tell us at the end of October who the best teams are.” Well, not necessarily, That committee has the bells and whistles (and the ultimate say in which teams make the playoff), but hardly a breadth of college football expertise.
Our personal poll is pretty close to the AP, Coaches, and CFN.com selections. We’d have it 1. Alabama, 2. Ohio State, 3. Clemson, 4. Washington. (And for those who say, “Washington?” our answer would be “Hey, the AP still has Texas in the top 25!”) And if Stanford had beaten Washington the way Washington beat Stanford (44-6), most of those polls would have moved Stanford into the top four.
But ours is not to worry about the national picture. To paraphrase legendary Alabama Coach Paul Bryant, “Win all your games and the polls will take care of themselves (except in 1966).” Speaking of 1966, that Crimson Tide team was recognized in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday before Bama’s 34-6 win over Kentucky. Trying to become the only team in college football history to win three consecutive national championships, the Tide was the only team in the nation to finish unbeaten and untied, but lost out in a rigged Associated Press poll.
But, once again, we digress.
Our premise is that Alabama has already played against the second best team in the SEC, the Tide winning 48-43 over Ole Miss. Because the Rebels blew big leads to both Florida State and Alabama, Ole Miss is ranked only 14th in the AP and Coaches polls, 16th by CFN.com
We think the the next three games are against the three best teams after Alabama and Mississippi. Our rank is Texas A&M, Tennessee, Arkansas in the 3-5 positions, which points out the difficulty of the Bama schedule.
The rest of our SEC power ranking is a little shaky, but we’ll make it 6. Florida, 7. Georgia, 8. Auburn, 9. LSU, 10. Mississippi State. 11. Missouri, 12. Kentucky, 13. South Carolina, and 14. Vanderbilt.