A look at the road ahead for the SEC's loss-less teams
This was inevitable. The last time Alabama didn't have an undefeated September was back in 2007, Nick Saban's first season in Tuscaloosa. And barring an epic upset against Ole Miss to open the home slate this year, that record is going to be in place for at least one more season. This was the best chance in a few seasons for anyone to get to the Tide early, and it looks like it's not going to happen.
The big challenges were supposed to be Michigan and the trip to Arkansas, where Tyler Wilson would put Alabama's relatively green secondary to the test. So much for all that. The combined margin for those two games was 93-14, though Arkansas' implosion in the JohnL Smith era has to shoulder some of the blame. Still, it's an impressive showing by a team that's made an art form of quick starts. Barring something unusual, it's likely to lead to another big season for Saban and Alabama.
Victims: Michigan, Western Kentucky, at Arkansas, Florida Atlantic
Remaining schedule: Ole Miss, at Missouri, at Tennessee, Mississippi State, at LSU, Texas A&M, Western Carolina, Auburn
What's gone right: What hasn't? The Tide has used its usual combination of grinding offense and a lockdown defense to blow out every opponent on the schedule. So their rushing offense is statistically average and their passing offense is statistically mediocre in SEC terms -- the scoring offense is ranked third in the conference. AJ McCarron is the fourth most efficient quarterback in the nation, and that gets to the root of the Tide's potency: ruthless efficiency. Alabama has scored every time it's entered the red zone this year -- and scored a touchdown 77.8 percent of the time. And did we mention the defense is probably the best in the nation? Tops in the SEC in scoring, passing yardage and total offense, and solid in pretty much every other category.
Potential pitfalls: We're going to have to get pretty nit-picky here. The tackles for loss numbers are a little low. The quarterbacks have actually taken something of a beating, with 2.5 sacks allowed per game. The kickoff return yardage is terrible -- ranked 113th in the nation -- but Alabama has only returned three kickoffs all year. The net punting isn't great. Beyond that, you've got me. The turnover margin of +2.5 a game isn't exactly comforting, but a good deal of that comes from Alabama taking care of the ball, and half the turnovers the Tide has gained are interceptions, so a huge regression to the mean might not be in the offing.
Prognosis: As we noted when discussing LSU, Alabama has a scheduling advantage in the race for the SEC West, not that they're likely to need it. The only roadblock on the schedule remains the roadblock everyone saw at the beginning of the year: LSU. Sure, the Auburn game could cause some heartburn, particularly if the Tigers' season has gone downhill and the Iron Bowl is as close as they're getting to the postseason, but there's no reason on paper for the Tide to have a loss if they can defeat LSU. The more things change.