Senior Writer

Weekend Watch List: Tide roll into unprecedented stretch


Ever go to a movie and feel like you spent $7.50 to watch an endless reel of commercials?

That's how they get ya, these days. Hook you with previews, then bombard you with Coke ads once you've got your popcorn.

That's kind of how Alabama's season feels to this point. Filler, mulch, infomercials. San Jose State, Penn State, Duke. Yeah, yeah, Penn State was the game of the week. Half right, maybe. The Nittany Lions played a game of the weak. No one reasonably expected JoePa to come to T-town and win.

Thankfully, the main course is being served. It's not just a top-10 matchup with Arkansas this week. Saturday's game is followed by Florida and a trip to South Carolina. That's Nos. 10, 9 and 12 -- in a row. That's also the reason every SEC honk from Fayetteville to Gainesville starts every sentence these days with, "Let's see Boise State go undefeated in the SEC ..."

Never mind the argument is full of holes. It's fantasy football because it can't happen. If it did, well, relocate Boise to the SEC and its facilities, schedule, recruiting and budget would allow it compete, perhaps dominate. For now, WWL will go out on limb and say that if Alabama gets through this three-week stretch Boise won't be a concern.

This is shaping up as the toughest three-week slog in Alabama history. If Florida and South Carolina cooperate by continuing to win, 'Bama could be facing three consecutive top 10 teams. That has happened exactly never in the school's history.

This being the Strength Everywhere Conference, this kind of stuff does happen, just not on the scale of what Alabama is about to face.

  In 2007, Florida was defending national champion and played consecutive games against No. 1 LSU, No. 8 Kentucky and No. 20 Georgia. It lost twice.

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      That same year, No. 1 LSU played four ranked SEC teams in a row, losing once. It came out ranked No. 2 on its way to an eventual national championship.

    In each case, there was a bye week built in for those teams. The Tide are going to play these three games in consecutive weeks. You can see why Nick Saban is concerned about playing six consecutive opponents coming off a bye week -- starting with South Carolina.

    Grab your popcorn, the commercials are over, the curtain is going up. That usher with flashlight? Mark Ingram, leading the way.

    Scouting the Nation

    More Alabama-Arkansas: If Arkansas puts eight in the box as it did at times last year in Tuscaloosa, don't look for Greg McElroy to necessarily go up top. The 'Bama front line is so formidable it has a formation where it can overload one side of the line with tackles D.J. Fluker (320 pounds) and James Carpenter (300) and hammer it. That means a lot if, as expected, Saban decides to take the air out of the ball in the belly of the beast at Razorback Stadium.

    No more Little Debbies: Just a suggestion Sabanator, but you might want to turn down a gig now and then. Saban, that budding actor, will have no more of the god-awful treat after having to take 17 bites of Little Debbies while going through 33 takes during a recent commercial shoot. "I couldn't take anymore Little Debbies," Saban said.

    Pressure on the voters: Come with me to Sunday. Come with me in the hearts and minds of the coaches poll voters.

    They have a tough decision to make. Boise has won. Alabama has lost. Fayetteville has been burned to the ground but that's not the point. It's a threshold that the voters must decide they will cross -- elevating Boise State to No. 2.

    While it's still early, that would be another sign of the apocalypse for Boise haters. If 'Bama loses then, logically, No. 2 Ohio State (playing Eastern Michigan) would move up to No. 1 and No. 3 Boise would move up to No. 2 if it beats Oregon State Saturday night. The Beavers seem to be the only significant barrier to Boise for another undefeated season. It will be there for everyone to see. Boise at No. 2 would be tangible proof that it could play for the national championship. But will the voters have the guts? Will they instead jump Texas, currently No. 4, over Boise? Boise's margin over Texas grew from 16 points to 40 this week in the coaches poll. Boise also gained ground on the No. 2 Buckeyes, picking up 13 points. The margin is now 1,410-1,291, a difference of 119 points. It's never too early to speculate with the first BCS standings less than a month away.

    Three surprising 3-0 teams that will be a surprising 4-0:

    Kansas State: Already beaten UCLA and is 1-0 in the Big 12. The Wildcats could be 4-0 for the first time since 2003 with a win over Central Florida.

    Northwestern: God, Pat Fitzgerald is amazing. The Wildcats are trying to start 4-0 for the second time in three years. The defense has allowed only 37 points going into the Central Michigan game.

    Nevada: The Pack has put up 50 twice. In its other game, it scored 49. After embarrassing Cal, Nevada should take care of quarterback-challenged BYU in Provo.

    Nicknames for Kansas State's Daniel Thomas:

    Thomas the Tank Engine
    Barney the Purple Dinosaur

    The nation's leading running back can't get enough props from WWL ...

    Kick-Ass (Jim Harbaugh director's cut): Stanford's coach laid 68 points on Wake last week, just because he could. That's more points than the Stanford basketball team scored in 15 games last season. This is no accident. This is a pattern of behavior. Stanford scored on its first eight possessions. It punted once. Harbaugh even challenged a fumble with less than six minutes to go.

    For good measure, Captain Comeback is preparing to kick some puppies. Either Harbaugh is lobbying for the Michigan job or trying to leave an Osborne-esque legacy. (Don't act like your guy didn't run it up a few times, Nebraska.) The Irish provide the opposition trying to avoid another epic blowout.

    BY-Who's Next? The Jake Heaps Era starts sooner than anyone thought. Heaps, the freshman blue-chip quarterback, gets his first start against Nevada in place of Riley Nelson, who is out for the season (shoulder). "I didn't come to BYU to split time," said Heaps, who has done just that through a 1-2 BYU start.

    Gators late: Three games into the season, Florida better get itself squared away. We are now eight days away from the Alabama game which makes it imperative the Gators win efficiently and by a lot against Kentucky. That means a quick start, no injuries and no more fielding grounders for John Brantley.

    With a win over Kentucky, Urban Meyer would become the sixth-fastest coach to 100 victories (118 games). That's one behind Knute Rockne (117) and two ahead of Robert Neyland (120). No word on which coach was the fastest coach to 30 arrests. Zing ...

    Death in Death Valley? West Virginia is emerging as the best team in the Big East and Geno Smith is emerging as the best quarterback in the Big East. But there's a big gap between that conference and the rest of the country. The Big East is 1-7 against other BCS conferences. It could be 1-8 after the Mountaineers visit LSU.

    South Carolina at Auburn: You know about Marcus Lattimore and all that, but WWL never thought it would hear this question to, and answer from, Steve Spurrier during this week's SEC conference call.

    Questioner: You still want to stress throwing the ball, right?

    Spurrier: Obviously you haven't seen us throw it much lately. We're not planning on coming down there and throwing it 40 times.

    Both Auburn and South Carolina want to pound it. Spurrier has run it 63.8 percent of the time this season. Auburn is No. 1 in SEC rush offense. Lattimore is No. 2 in the SEC in rushing. Does Auburn have anything left after that street fight with Clemson? The loser loses divisional leverage in this SEC intra-divisional showdown.

    Shameless Big Ten: The following is a list of Big Ten opponents this week -- Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Northern Colorado, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Temple, Toledo and Austin Peay. That is eight MAC teams, two of them winless, and two I-AAs. Combined record of the little 10: 14-16.

    Quote of the week from the Ol' Turkey Inseminator

    "We even increased the tempo. I know our fans thought I'd gone slap crazy."

      Vanderbilt's Robbie Caldwell on running quicker plays in withering field-level heat last week against Ole Miss.

    Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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