SEC Storylines: Alabama

Is Alabama for real? Are the No. 8 Crimson Tide really ready to ascend back to the top of the SEC Western Division in only the second season of Nick Saban's reclamation project?

Tonight's trip to Samford Stadium to take on No. 3 Georgia (6:45 p.m. on ESPN), could let Alabama fans answer with an emphatic, "Yes!" A defeat doesn't automatically mean the Crimson Tide should give up on contending with the main SEC powers of recent years.

But, inescapably, this is the chance the rabid followers of the Crimson Tide have long craved. With dominant performances already against Clemson and Arkansas, another against the Bulldogs could even land Alabama a spot in national-title talk.

No doubt, it won't be easy.

Georgia's defense has the physical presence to stop Alabama's two-back attack of Glen Coffee and Mark Ingram. The Bulldogs possess two possible future professional stars in quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Knowshon Moreno. And, there is that whole matter of 71,000 screaming Bulldogs fans.

This has all the makings of a thriller, like last year's 26-23 overtime win by Georgia in Tuscaloosa.

Desperate For Victory

In 17 seasons as Tennessee's coach, Phillip Fulmer has won 75.8 percent of his games.

But in the what-have-you-done-lately culture of college football, Volunteers fans have gotten extremely restless with Fulmer. Tennessee opened the season with a massively disappointing loss at rebuilding UCLA and wasn't at all competition in its 30-6 defeat to Florida last Saturday.

So yes, the Volunteers' game at No. 15 Auburn (2:30 p.m. on CBS) has enormous implications. Win, and anxious fans may remember the success of old. Lose, and, well, rumblings about a pink slip get progressively louder.

Auburn's offense has struggled in Tony Franklin's new offense, but so has Tennessee's in Dave Clawson's new scheme.

Rivalry Revival

Old Southwest Conference rivals Arkansas and Texas renew their rivalry at Donald K. Royal Memorial Stadium (2:30 p.m. on ABC) under rarely seen circumstances. Sure, the Razorbacks have knocked off the Longhorns before as large underdogs. But not when they were as much of an underdog as they are today against No. 7 Texas.

Vegas oddsmakers think Bobby Petrino's team isn't nearly equipped for this kind of test this early in his tenure in Fayetteville. And, on the surface, it's hard to disagree.

Arkansas' only chance lies in keeping up in a shootout, a possibility with offensive weapons such as running back Michael Smith and tight end D.J. Williams at Petrino's disposal.

Quick Hits

No. 5 LSU's defense welcomes Mississippi State to Tiger Stadium (6:30 p.m. on ESPN2) boasting scary averages of 12.3 points and 252.7 yards (55.3 rushing, 197.3 passing) allowed per game. ... All offensive positions were open for competition this week at South Carolina. So it's anybody's guess as to who takes the field for the Gamecocks tonight against Alabama-Birmingham (6 p.m.). ... Ole Miss heads to No. 4 Florida (11:30 a.m. on Raycom) with the knowledge that the Rebels knocked off the Gators on their last trip to Gainesville — 20-17 in 2003.

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