John Parker Wilson couldn't help himself. After getting driven into the ground by Jake Bequette, fellow Arkansas defensive end Damario Ambrose felt the need to come over and get in the quarterback's face late in the third quarter of Alabama's 49-14 win over Arkansas. Wilson smiled, put his arm around Ambrose like an old friend and pointed at the scoreboard as if it was picturesque sunset he couldn't miss. "Look at that," he yelled. "Just look at that."
The scoreboard at that point in the game -- Alabama 42, Arkansas 7 -- really said everything that needed to be said.
Any doubts that Alabama was for real following its swift rise up the rankings were quickly squelched in the first quarter of a game that quickly got out of hand. It shouldn't come as a surprise that Nick Saban's group forced Bobby Petrino to change his game plan early, jumping out to an early 21-0 lead. Alabama has now outscored its opponents 78-0 in the first quarter over its first four games.
The most noticeable difference with Alabama this season has been the play of Wilson, who after enduring three offensive coordinators in three years may have finally found his match in first-year coordinator Jim McElwain. The Tide are now a balanced team with equal parts big-play ability and ball-control stability. For every 80-plus-yard touchdown run, they have 10-play drive that eats up the clock and wears out the defense. 'Bama already has 10 drives of 10 or more plays this season.
Few teams in the country are as stacked as the Crimson Tide on both the offensive and defensive lines and both units showcased their dominance early in the game. With Andre Smith back at left tackle, the Tide continued to run left behind Smith, Mike Johnson and Antoine Caldwell for 331 rushing yards, including an 87-yard touchdown by Glen Coffee, the fourth-longest run in Alabama history.
The Alabama defense, which came into the game allowing an NCAA-best 42.7 rushing yards per game, gave up over twice that amount against the Razorbacks (92 yards), but came up big when it mattered most. At the end of the first half, Arkansas had a first-and-goal inside the two-yard line. With 6-foot-5, 380-pound junior defensive tackle Terrence Cody clogging up the middle, the Razorbacks came away scoreless after three runs and an incomplete pass.
Next week Alabama travels to Sanford Stadium to take on Georgia. If Georgia takes care of Arizona State tonight in the desert, 'Bama-UGA will undoubtedly be the biggest game on next week's schedule. While the Dawgs have been able to get by so far this season with an offensive line in flux (the offense was basically non-existent in last week's 14-7 win over South Carolina), they'll need to play like the team most thought they'd be in the preseason if they're going to defeat Alabama. With their imposing fronts on each side of the ball, the Crimson Tide are suddenly a major player in the SEC and on the national scene, for that matter.