Crimson Tide starting to grow up
Justin Schuver, Sports Editor
TUSCALOOSA – It certainly wasn't as dominating a performance as Alabama's 37-14 win over South Carolina a week earlier, but it still got the job done.
The Crimson Tide's 24-13 win over a hungry Arkansas team showed SEC fans a glimpse of the strides the program is making this season. Two years ago, Alabama was up 31-10 against Arkansas but completely fell apart on the way to a 34-31 double-overtime heartbreaking loss.
Flash forward to Saturday. Alabama has just taken a 17-3 lead on a Tim Castille run. Three plays later, Arkansas freshman Darren McFadden busts loose for a 70-yard touchdown run to cut the score to 17-10. And on its next offensive drive, Alabama punter Jeremy Schatz sees his kick blocked by Sam Olajubutu and Arkansas recovers on the Alabama 11-yard line.
Here we go again?
Not this time. Alabama's defense held strong, holding Arkansas to a field goal. That's the difference between this year's Crimson Tide and Shula's first team in 2003.
"Two years ago, I don't think we win this game," said quarterback Brodie Croyle, whose touchdown pass to D.J. Hall late in the fourth quarter sealed the game for Alabama.
I was high on Alabama at the start of the season, making them my pick to win the SEC West, and I haven't seen anything that makes me feel any different. There's a big test against Florida this weekend, but the maturity of this year's Tide team can't be denied. Win or lose, they should give the Gators a battle to the last whistle.
And now, this week's picks:
Muscle Shoals Trojans (1-4, 0-3) at Hartselle Tigers (3-2, 2-1): Hartselle didn't play badly against Decatur; it was simply a matter of a ranked 6A team having more talent than the Tigers. Now that the playing field is level again, Hartselle should go right back to its winning ways in Region 8…Tigers 27, Trojans 6.
Cold Springs Eagles (1-4, 0-3) at Priceville Bulldogs (2-3, 1-2): What a difference two weeks make. Just two games ago, the Bulldogs were looking at a lost season and now they have a chance to get back to .500 with a win over a very weak Eagles team. Look for Priceville to break even and head into next week with momentum…Bulldogs 28, Eagles 14.
Cordova Blue Devils (4-1, 3-0) at Falkville Blue Devils (1-4, 1-2): If I were a betting man, I'd take the Blue Devils to win this game. Cordova hasn't really had any hard tests this season, but I don't see Falkville as being able to pull off the upset. Visiting Blue Devils 35, Home Blue Devils 17.
Danville Hawks (2-3, 1-2) at Winston County Yellow Jackets (2-3, 2-1): Things have gone sour in a hurry for the Hawks, who expected to compete for the region championship this season. Right now Danville is playing catch-up, and they have a must-win in a tough road environment if they want to stay in the playoff hunt…Yellow Jackets 24, Hawks 17.
Brewer Patriots (1-4, 0-3) at Walker Vikings (3-2, 1-2): The Patriots have shown promise at times this season, and probably should be able to at least give the Vikings a game. I have a hard time picking against a region opponent who's playing at home…Vikings 24, Patriots 13.
No. 4 Florida Gators (4-0, 2-0) at No. 15 Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0, 2-0): This is the big one. Time to see if Urban-ball works against a fundamentally sound defense with speed. I like DeMeco Ryans and the rest of Alabama's defense to step up big and send the SEC's newest coach back to Gainesville with his first loss of the season…Crimson Tide 31, Gators 28.
South Carolina Gamecocks (2-2, 0-2) at Auburn Tigers (3-1, 1-0): This is a tough one to pick. Auburn has feasted on cupcakes for the most part, while the Gamecocks have had two tough SEC games already. That experience, combined with Spurrier's savvy, will be enough to lead the visiting team to victory…Gamecocks 27, Tigers 20.
No. 22 Purdue Boilermak-ers (3-1) at No. 13 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-1): As an Irish fan, I was disappointed to see Purdue lose to Minnesota in double overtime. The last thing I want is an angry Boilers team coming up to South Bend.
Like Michigan State, I see this one going down to the wire in an absolute offensive shootout…Fighting Irish 45, Boilermakers 42.