SCOTT: Things going Bama's way

Sometimes when you're on a roll, all the big breaks just seem to go your way.

Leading just 17-13 with over two minutes left and facing third and goal at the Arkansas 5-yard line, Alabama walked to the line of scrimmage to find an obvious hole in the Arkansas defense.


When receiver DJ Hall split out wide to his right, no one from Arkansas came with him. No one. Nobody. All it took was a subtle signal from Hall to quarterback Brodie Croyle and the Crimson Tide produced an easy touchdown.


"We had a draw play called which probably wouldn't have worked," Alabama coach Mike Shula said. "Hey, I'm honest. It was great. They were actually in a different defense when they broke huddle and they just didn't quite adjust."


With a 24-13 victory over Arkansas, Alabama is 4-0 for the first time since 1996. Still, victories over Middle Tennessee, Southern Miss, South Carolina and Arkansas really don't offer conclusive evidence about the Crimson Tide.


All those victories offered suggestions that Alabama is a legitimate contender in the SEC West, but no one will no for certain until the Crimson Tide makes it case on Saturday at home against Florida.

"I told them after the game: Next week's game just got bigger because of what we did today," Shula said.


Don't think the Alabama players haven't noticed.


As soon as the Arkansas game came to a close, Croyle admitted, "We can talk Florida now.

"We've all had our eyes on them since before the season. Each week you have to concentrate on your respective opponent, but this is the type of game you come to Alabama to play in. It'll be fun."


It'll be fun for the Tide if it wins. For that to happen, Alabama must address a multitude of concerns from the Arkansas game. For starters, the Tide dropped several passes, allowed a 70-yard touchdown by Arkansas freshman Darren McFadden and let a punt get blocked in the fourth quarter, giving Arkansas the ball at the Alabama 11-yard line.


The defense also allowed a season-high 318 yards, including a surprising 237 rushing yards.


"You can tell that everybody has a look in their eye like we want to get better," linebacker Juwan Simpson said. "And we're looking forward to next week."




So is Florida, especially after the Gators finally showed signs of life on offense in a 49-28 victory over Kentucky.


OK, so it's Kentucky, but executing is executing, and that's what the Gators finally did. First-year Florida coach Urban Meyer wasn't happy with the Gators' execution of his spread-option offense over their first three games but everything that started to change against Kentucky.


One week after the Gators hurt themselves frequently in a 16-7 victory over Tennessee, Florida quarterback Chris Leak completed 25 of 32 passes for 319 yards and four touchdown passes, tailback DeShawn Wynn scored four touchdowns and receiver Jemalle Cornelius helped ease the loss of Andre Caldwell to a season-ending injury with eight receptions for 138 yards.


As an offense, Florida recorded season highs in points and total offense (537 yards) and scored a touchdown on seven consecutive possessions.


"Chris Leak played terrific," Meyer said. "I think this was the best he's thrown the ball ... Chris ran the offense really well. In case you wonder, that's the way we like to have things look."


That was true until the fourth quarter when Kentucky scored 14 consecutive points and Meyer had to put the starters back in the game with 6:49 left on the clock.


"We're not perfect. Far from it," Meyer said. "I was absolutely disgusted. You shouldn't have to do that at Florida. I think our fears were exposed, that being that this team has very little depth."




Alabama coaches and players broke out the spin machine when the Crimson Tide struggled to put Arkansas away, one week after top-ranked USC beat the Razorbacks 70-17.


"We're grateful and thankful to come out of this game alive," Alabama defensive coordinator Joe Kines said. "That's a good football team."


How good? That's hard to say, but the Arkansas team that played a competitive game against Alabama looked better than the one that looked overwhelmed against USC.


"We didn't get the win, so we can't be too satisfied," Arkansas defensive tackle Keith Jackson said. "But we showed people we're better than what we were (last week) and we showed teams they'd better get ready for us."


The Razorbacks are 1-3, with its only win coming against Division I-AA Missouri State. The losses have come at home against Vanderbilt (gulp) and on the road at USC and Alabama.


"We've been in this situation before," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "We've been 1-3 and gone to the Cotton Bowl."


The Razorbacks can start with an open date this week and a victory over Louisiana-Monroe on Oct. 8, but after that they play six consecutive SEC opponents, starting with Auburn and Georgia.




After a surprising 3-0 start, how many football cynics were just waiting for Vanderbilt to wake up, realize it was all a dream and fall apart in a loss to Division I-AA Richmond?


"It still amazes me," Vanderbilt linebacker Moses Osemwegie said. "I have to pinch myself sometimes."


Keep pinching. The Commodores took care of their business last week and put Richmond away for a 37-13 victory. The reality is Vanderbilt is 4-0 now for the first time since 1984 and stands an excellent chance of being 5-0 – at least on paper.


The Commodores should be better than the 0-3 Blue Raiders, but Middle Tennessee has beaten Vanderbilt the last two times these teams played. The Blue Raiders beat the Commodores 37-28 in 2001 and 21-20 in 2002.


Of course, the Commodores would like to remind us all that this is a different team and a different year. Yeah, REAL different. As in, Vanderbilt trying to be 5-0 different.


Asked about those differences between his current team and the ones that lost to Middle Tennessee before, Vandy coach Bobby Johnson said they are "countless. ... About 10,000 things. Number one, we're 4-0. Number two, we're playing with a little more confidence."




While Vanderbilt is on the rise, Ole Miss is competing with Arkansas for the farthest drop in the SEC.


That was evident in a loss to Vanderbilt two weeks and became even more apparent last week with an inexplicable 24-14 home loss to Wyoming. Not only have the Rebels now lost two consecutive games to the Cowboys, they've lost most of the momentum that came with the hiring of coach Ed Orgeron.


For all of Orgeron's fiery intensity, it's not doing much to help the Rebels avoid fumbles, missed tackles, false start penalties, missed field goals and incomplete passes.


"We have to eliminate mistakes and learn our offensive and defensive schemes better," Orgeron said. "As time goes on we're going to do that. Some positions we're not as talented as we need to be and at some we're talented and not playing as good as we need to, but it all falls on my shoulders.


"Recruiting, getting things right. Everything is on me. I told those guys, look at me, we're going to get it right. We're going to work and get it right, whatever it takes."


Did he say "recruiting?" When a first-year coach with a losing record mentions the word "recruiting" after a loss, it's a sure sign of one thing: he's fixin' to give up on the juniors and seniors, start playing the freshmen and sophomores and begin looking to the future immediately.


In the meantime, Ole Miss' schedule (Memphis, Vanderbilt and Wyoming) takes a turn for the nasty this week with a road game at Tennessee.




Georgia has spent its season beating Boise State, South Carolina, Louisiana-Monroe and Mississippi State. After opening its season with a loss to Georgia Tech, Auburn has spent the past three weeks beating Mississippi State, Ball State and Western Kentucky.


Now the Bulldogs face Open Date State University this week while the Tigers take on South Carolina at home.


Is either one of these getting any better?


Georgia keeps stumbling through its own self-induced offensive struggles. The Bulldogs beat Mississippi State 23-10 but also failed to score a touchdown on four consecutive second-half drives inside the 10-yard line, settling for three field goals and a lost fumble.


"Overall, it was a respectable effort," coach Mark Richt said, "but there is still so much that we can get better doing."


The only tangible positive that came out of Auburn's 37-14 victory over Division I-AA Western Kentucky was the way backup quarterback Blake Field played when starter Brandon Cox's stomach virus forced Field to start. Field played reasonably well, but the Tigers were hardly inspiring.


"I told the players in the locker room that it's time," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. "It's time to get going."






Richard Scott is a featured columnist and Tiger Rag's SEC expert. A longtime journalist in the Birmingham area, Scott has worked for a number of newspapers in addition to writing two books "Legends of Alabama Football" and "Tales from the Auburn 2004 Championship season." He can be reached by e-mail at

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