Over the past decade, we have tabulated Alabama’s brilliance on a seemingly unending number of occasions. Nick Saban, riding an endless train of success, has made it easy to do.
We’re going to do it again right now, even if it’s a bit differently. On Saturday, Alabama beat Arkansas 49-26 on the road to move to 5-0. The Crimson Tide covered the 17-point spread, doing so for the fourth time in five games this season.
The fact that Alabama is covering the spread at that rate despite consistently facing huge numbers it has is remarkable. The fact that it did so on Saturday despite losing last year’s Heisman winner, Bryce Young, to a shoulder injury brings this to a different level.
Jalen Milroe, the team’s backup QB, came in and struggled momentarily. He then uncorked a 70-plus yard run that shifted the game back in the Tide’s favor. Alabama’s top two wideouts on Saturday were freshmen, while the top running back, the electric Jahmyr Gibbs, was a transfer.
It was imperfect. In fact, the third quarter was a disaster. Alabama totaled negative yardage as Arkansas stormed back into the game. Then the talent took over, and Arkansas could not keep up.
Now, I understand this is normal. We expect Alabama to do Alabama things to avoid losses in games like this, even when the team’s best player is knocked out for the game. At the same point, this shouldn’t be normal. It can’t be normal.
As we await word on what Young’s status will be up for the coming week, we feel comfort in knowing that Alabama still is Alabama. With Georgia struggling against Missouri, the Crimson Tide assumed the role as national championship favorite despite the team’s starting QB entering the week with a bum throwing shoulder.
In most instances, that would be alarming. For Alabama, it’s somehow all part of the plan.
The Appetizer: Football Tidbits and Observations
Paul Chryst is no longer the coach at Wisconsin
In a bit of a stunner, the Badgers parted ways with their coach on Sunday night. Wisconsin closed as only a 6.5-point favorite at home against Illinois, and proceeded to lose 34-10. The student section was essentially empty by the time the fourth quarter began, and Wisconsin looked truly lost for the first time in a long time. As more jobs come open, including Colorado now, the hierarchy will begin to take shape. Here’s what I do know: Lance Leipold is about to be a very rich man.
Georgia won, although the conversation gets complicated from there
The Bulldogs stayed unbeaten, which is most important. They also were never close to covering the 31-point spread against Mizzou. The performance against Missouri should be concerning for a few reasons. For me, the biggest concern was the line of scrimmage. Up until the last eight minutes, Missouri was very much up for what Georgia was doing on both sides of the ball. That is problematic, and it will show up in the future unless something changes. The good news? Georgia plays Auburn, Vanderbilt and Florida next before playing Tennessee. There is time to get right.
We need to talk about UCLA
The Bruins’ Friday night win over Washington as a short underdog was a big one, and it’s the kind of performance Chip Kelly needed. UCLA nearly lost to South Alabama as a 15.5-point favorite a few weeks ago, although this showing certainly changes expectations. QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson has now accounted for 14 touchdowns and only one interception this year, joining the Heisman conversation at 35-1 odds. He’ll have a chance to shrink those odds further with games against Utah and at Oregon on deck.
Oklahoma looks broken
After losing to Kansas State at home, the Sooners lost outright as a 4.5-point favorite against TCU. And it’s not just the fact that they lost; they were destroyed. TCU posted 55 points and 668 yards in a game that seemed to last seven hours. Granted, Oklahoma was dealt a slew of injuries, including the loss of starting QB Dillon Gabriel, but it was rough overall. While Brent Venables was supposed to bring a defensive mindset to his new program, it’s clear we have a long way to go. Oh, and TCU might be a really fun football team.
Let’s stay with the broken theme and talk about Texas A&M
The Aggies owe Jimbo Fisher $95 million. In fact, he was just given more money. The fact that the program is in this state of mediocrity, especially on offense, is truly unacceptable. The Aggies failed to cover the 4.5-point spread in a double-digit loss to Mississippi State, and they’ll now head to Alabama next. Something has got to change, because this contract isn't going away.
UConn won a football game
Yes, I am surprised as well. The Huskies beat Fresno State outright as 23.5-point underdogs, delivering one of the more shocking outcomes of the young season. This marks the first time UConn has beaten an FBS team in more than 1,000 days. While there is a lot of work to do, Jim Mora Jr. has the team playing much, much better in his first month-plus on the job.
The Buffet: The Five Best Games of the Weekend
1. No. 11 Utah (-3, 64) at No. 18 UCLA
It wasn’t circled as a must-see game in the Pac-12 before the season began, although it certainly feels that way now. Since losing the opener to Florida, Utah has won and covered the spread in every game since. The latest, a dominant 42-16 victory over Oregon State as a 10.5-point favorite was the most impressive yet. UCLA, however, is on a roll as well. While an early close call against South Alabama scared many, including this writer, Friday’s 40-32 win over Washington as a small underdog was massive. Utah is a different team at home, and UCLA could be a very tough opponent yet again.
2. No. 17 TCU (-5, 67.5) at No. 19 Kansas
The fact that this game is featured above so many others is why college football is the greatest sport on earth. ESPN’s College Gameday will be there, which also says a lot about the season for both of these undefeated teams. Kansas is 5-0 ATS, and on the field after hanging on to beat Iowa State 14-11. Sure, missed kicks helped and there was a fair amount of luck involved, but the Jayhawks are suddenly a game team. TCU is also unbeaten and perfect against the spread, coming off an absolutely masterful demolition of Oklahoma as a 4.5-point underdog. While Kansas has been one of the best stories in college football, TCU might be simply on another level of speed and execution right now.
3. No. 8 Tennessee (-3, 62) at No. 25 LSU
When LSU lost its opener to Florida State, we expected the worst. And truthfully, when the Tigers fell behind Auburn early on Saturday, it looked a bit grim once again. LSU ultimately won thanks largely to Auburn’s incompetence, although Brian Kelly’s team failed to cover the 8-point spread. It was the first time in a month LSU failed to cover the number. Tennessee spent Saturday on the couch, but it’s been an impressive start thus far. The Vols are 4-0 and 3-1 ATS, with the lone loss against the number coming in Week 4 against Florida. Offensively, Tennessee feels to have an enormous advantage in the matchup, although the environment will present a challenge. More than anything, I’m curious to see where this line moves throughout the week.
4. No. 1 Alabama (-24, 52.5) vs. Texas A&M
Technically, it’s still a matchup many people will care about. There was the beef between Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher this offseason that set the stage. Oh, and Texas A&M beat Alabama last year, temporarily derailing the season. That also happened. But at the moment, the juice feels like it might be gone from this one. The Aggies were handled as a 4.5-point underdog against Mississippi State, and the offense continues to be an issue. Alabama, meanwhile, has its own concerns. Bryce Young’s injured throwing shoulder is worth monitoring, and it will certainly impact the total a great deal depending on what the vibe is throughout the week. Still, the Crimson Tide still moved the ball without him. Also, just a reminder: Saban doesn’t forget.
5. No. 14 NC State (-3.5, 52) vs. Florida State
The emotional state of both teams is, well, probably similar. NC State was unable to cover the 6.5-point spread against Clemson, although the Wolfpack certainly battled. Florida State did jump out to an early lead against Wake Forest. From there, the Seminoles were unable to maintain the success or slow down QB Sam Hartman. They lost outright as a 5.5-point favorite and never felt like a threat to cover the number. As we enter Week 6, we’re still trying to figure out how good both of these teams are. The quarterbacks, Devin Leary and Jordan Travis, are likely to influence this significantly. I got burned last week backing FSU, although I’m awfully tempted to run it back again early on.
Last Call: Parting Shots on Other Games of Note
Texas (-6, 65) vs. Oklahoma
Give Texas credit for bouncing back nicely against West Virginia last week. Oklahoma did the opposite, and this feels like the Longhorns’ best chance to dominate this game in years.
Mississippi State (-5, 62) vs. Arkansas
I am loving what I’m seeing from Mississippi State, and the Bulldogs will take on a physically and emotionally exhausted team. Arkansas has ability, but this stretch is brutal.
Notre Dame (-1.5, N/A) vs. BYU
BYU is ranked, although the Irish are favored. Are we going to see the Notre Dame team that dominated UNC or the one that fumbled around with Cal? Early lean to the Irish