This Is Type Game To Worry About

I didn't realize how bad the problem was until a radio sports show called and asked me to be on for a few minutes to talk about Alabama. I can talk about Alabama. But when I was asked a relatively simple question about Arkansas State, I realized I didn't have my game face on. I could remember the name of the Red Wolves head coach and the results of a few of their games. That was it.



Alabama will be hosting Arkansas State this weekend. The Crimson Tide's game against the Red Wolves counts just as much as did the season-opening game against Clemson. I knew everything about Clemson.

All I know about Arkansas State is they opened the season with a win over Texas A&M, defeated Texas Southern 83-10 and defeated Middle Tennessee State, which is a decent team. I know they lost to Memphis and Southern Miss and to one of the Louisiana schools (but not Monroe...they beat Monroe).

And I know that Arkansas State is Alabama's homecoming opponent, which probably muddies the water insofar as knowing about their players. I couldn't remember the name of their quarterback, their defensive end or if it is their left tackle or tight end or both who are supposed to be very fine players.

I know that Larry Lacewell, who was treated almost like a son by Coach Paul Bryant, was once the head coach at Arkansas State. Both Lacewell and Bryant played for the Fordyce Redbugs in high school, and I seem to recall that Bryant was a classmate of one or both of Lacewell's parents. In any event, Coach Bryant agreed to have Arkansas State come to Alabama (the game was at Legion Field in Birmingham) and play a game.

Alabama defeated Arkansas State 34-7 in 1982. I remember the Arkansas State players taking photographs of Coach Bryant.

The man who replaced Coach Bryant, Ray Perkins, would end up coaching at Arkansas State, hired by Charley Thornton, who had been assistant athletics director (and my boss) at Alabama.

In a very casual and very brief conversation with Tide Coach Nick Saban, he said he expected this to be a difficult game, that Arkansas State "is better than people realize." This wasn't coach talk. He means it.

Saban didn't have to get is team ready to play last week against Tennessee and he won't have to prod them next week against LSU. He admitted some needed a kick in the pants to get going in practice this week.

Over the years I have read where many great coaches worried about games like this. Alabama is 8-0 and ranked second in the nation. Arkansas State, 4-3, is expected to be cannon fodder when the teams kick off in Bryant-Denny Stadium at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday.

Former Alabama Coach Gene Stallings thought that players should be up for every game since there were so few in a season. Other coaches have said that a team has to be able to win a few games when it isn't on top of its game, when it's not "up."

Nick Saban won't leave anything to chance. This is one of those weeks where he has extra work to do, and he'll do it.

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