College football games, Week 4: Is there any stopping Alabama? Texas A&M takes its swing

The temptation is to cut to this season's chase. That would be Alabama resting unbeaten in the College Football Playoff.

So far this season, the chase is bordering on ridiculous. There hasn't been much of one. The Crimson Tide have won their first three games by a cumulative 142 points. That's the best three-game start since 1931 -- or 11 years before Nick Saban was born.

In Week 4, the schedule says Texas A&M must willingly step in front of this road grader. For some, it might be difficult to get excited about the "biggest" game of the week. Texas A&M goes to Bama in a key SEC West battle as a 26.5-point underdog.

Jimbo Fisher is a rock solid coach, but he isn't a magician. There are quiet whispers this might be Saban's best team at Alabama.

The Tide's first three opponents (Louisville, Arkansas State, Mississippi) went into their games as combined 94-point underdogs. As stated above, Bama surpassed that total by 48.

Why should Saturday be any different? Texas A&M made a fine statement against Clemson a couple of weeks ago, but is it fair to expect Kellen Mond to thrive in the belly of the Bryant-Denny beast?

Alabama's last home loss was 21 games and three years ago.

As much as Fisher wants it to happen now, Alabama remains a cement ceiling for everyone in the SEC -- and the country.

Some numbers …

  • Alabama is the first SEC team to open the season scoring at least 50-plus points in three straight games. The Tide haven't done that at any point in the season since 1945.
  • After his first three starts, sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is a leading Heisman  Trophy candidate despite not having thrown a pass in the fourth quarter. That's how far ahead the Tide have been on their opponents.
  • On third down, Tagovailoa is 13-for-13 passing for 298 yards with six touchdowns.
  • Only four quarterbacks in the country have thrown more touchdown passes without an interception than Tua's eight. Alabama is second nationally throwing touchdown passes on 15 percent of its attempts.
  • Only six Power Five teams have more interceptions than Alabama's five.
  • Bama's winning margin (142) accounts for more points than 115 teams have scored this season.
  • As it stands right now, the Tide would be double-digit favorites against the remainder of their opponents, according to CBS Sports gaming analyst Todd Fuhrman. The closest game isn't even official yet -- vs. Georgia in an SEC Championship Game.

Since the beginning of the 2015 season, Alabama has played 47 games (winning 44). It has been favored by at least 10 points in 36 of those games, going 22-12-2 against the spread. That's right. The Tide are also slaughtering the spread.

We haven't even gotten into the draft potential. According to CBS Sports draft analysts, Bama has a player rated in the top five at their respective position at running back, offensive tackle, offensive guard, defensive tackle and inside linebacker. In other words, typical Alabama.

Also worth nothing is one of the most enduring stats in the game: Saban is 12-0 against former assistants. Fisher, who spent five years with Saban at LSU, came close against Clemson a couple of weeks ago. But that was Clemson. If Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State have separated themselves from the pack, for now, Alabama has separated itself from those three.

"Right now, they're on top of college football," Fisher said of Alabama. "That's where you have to go." 

It may be a while -- for everyone.

And now, the rest of our Week 4 college football storylines ...

1. Pushing the Dawgs: Jake Fromm may actually have to finish a game as Georgia travels to Missouri. Georgia's quarterback has played only 56 percent of the snaps through three games not only because Kirby Smart wants to get snaps for freshman Justin Fields. Third-stringer Matthew Downing has been finishing blowouts. Georgia has scored at least 40 in three straight to open the season. Phone lines are open on whether Fromm (or Fields) will play into the fourth quarter. Missouri is coming off a game in which Purdue's David Blough accounted for the most yards ever by a Big Ten quarterback (588).

2. Didn't you used to be Florida-Tennessee? Something has to give. The teams go in with a combined 14-game SEC losing streak (Tennessee, eight; Florida, six). Gators fans used only 2,600 of their 7,500 allotment from the Vols. "That's the lowest I can ever remember," said Jimmy Hyams, radio host at WNML, Tennessee's flagship. For perspective, Tennessee fans used approximately 3,700 of the 8,500 allotment last year at The Swamp. Note to anxious fans: There's a reason both of those jobs were open.

3. Big Ten bounce back? Maybe: The conference is coming off a horrid Week 3 when it lost seven of 13 nonconference games. The best news for Week 4 is there are only two nonconference games (Buffalo at Rutgers, Tulane at Ohio State) One Big Ten analyst actually said claimed week that "you can't be too upset" about Kansas dropping 55 on Rutgers last week. What?

4. Big Ten trap game? Possibly: For the second time in 10 months, Iowa has a chance to doom a Big Ten rival's playoff. Last year, it was the out-of-nowhere 31-point beating of Ohio State. This week, Wisconsin is trying to recover from an out-of-nowhere upset to BYU. Obviously, the Badgers (2-1) can't afford another loss.

5. Nebraska needs something good to happen? Absolutely: A loss at Michigan marks the first 0-3 start since 1945. This is an improving Shea Patterson vs. a Scott Frost defense that has 10 sacks. The Huskers had 14 all of last season.

6. Big 12 ramps up: Entering Week 4, No. 5 Oklahoma (vs. Army) clearly has challengers within its conference … because OU's defensive lapses against Iowa State conjured the horror of blowing that 17-point playoff loss to Georgia. Also, No. 12 West Virginia, No. 15 Oklahoma State and No. 17 TCU all look like they're good.

The Horned Frogs trek to Austin after being put in their place by Ohio State. Immediately after the game, I talked to Gary Patterson and one of his assistants on the field. They both agreed that, while they were disappointed, they were encouraged by standing toe-to-toe with the Buckeyes for much of the game. Just a hunch but quarterback Shawn Robinson should explode this week against a defense that is not Ohio State.

West Virginia gets back to work hosting Kansas State after having last week's NC State cancelled by Hurricane Florence. The Mountaineers seem to be Oklahoma Jr. with an unstoppable offense and questionable defense. West Virginia could be 8-0 when it goes to Texas on Nov. 3.

The Cowboys announced themselves last week with a thrashing of Boise State. Jim Knowles defense looks legitimate as does tailback Justice Hill, a dark-horse Heisman candidate. Texas Tech comes to Stillwater this week. Whatever the over is, take it. The two offenses are averaging a combined 108 points per game.

7. Short-timers at North Texas and Troy: The two hottest Group of Five coaches are Seth Littrell (North Texas) and Neal Brown (Troy). Litrell's special teams coach devised the mind-bending "Peter Pan" play that embarrassed Arkansas last week. Under Brown, Troy has more Big Ten wins than 12 Big Ten teams at the moment after winning at Nebraska. The Mean Green is at Liberty, while Troy is at Louisiana-Monroe. Take a good look. Litrell and Brown won't be at their current jobs for long.

8. Orphaned: When Coastal Carolina kicks off against at Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday, it will have been on the road for 10 consecutive days. Hurricane Florence and the campus closing drove out the Chanticleers from Conway, South Carolina. Since then, they have switched a Sept. 15 home game with Campbell to the road (at Buies Creek, North Carolina).

For now, the traveling party of 160 has been staying in Jacksonville, Florida. It has been practicing at local high schools and searching for hotels that will accommodate seven dogs and two cats. The Chants will charter to ULL. After that, the team will either fly home or director of football operations Kevin Cristello will be looking for hotels in and around Lafayette. The Coastal campus remains closed.

9. Quick kicks: Kansas' David Beaty (at Baylor) gets a $100,000 bonus for each Power Five win. Essentially, that's 6 percent of his salary each time he does his job. That needs a bonus? … Southern Miss (at Appalachian State) entered the weekend as one of only two offenses with no three-and-outs. (UCF was the other hosting FAU on Friday.) … The most Texas Tech thing ever: The Red Raiders lead FBS with 624.3 yards per game. They are 104th in total defense … Boston College (at Purdue) is off to its best start (3-0) since 2007 … LSU has the worst offense (334 yards per game) among FBS' 34 unbeaten teams … San Diego State (vs. Eastern Michigan) is 4-1 vs the Pac-12 since the beginning of the 2016 season. That's one more win than Pac-12 member Oregon State has had in its own league in that span (3-15)

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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