ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Record: 5-1 (2-1 SEC)
You heard it from Nick Saban himself. The Alabama coach fumed earlier this week at his press gathering, “This team hasn’t proved [expletive].” He quickly apologized for his profane choice of words, but his message was right on. It’s up to this team to make its own way. The 19-game winning streak is over, and so is any perceived air of invincibility with the Crimson Tide. South Carolina took it to them last week in a 35-21 whipping, and now we find out how this team responds to a loss. The last time it happened -- the 2009 Sugar Bowl loss to Utah -- Alabama came back and reeled off 19 straight wins. And while the loss to South Carolina puts a serious dent in Alabama’s national championship hopes, it doesn’t necessarily kill them. A one-loss SEC champion would still carry a lot of weight when those final BCS standings come out. But more pressing for Alabama is to work out the kinks on defense, get back to doing what the Tide do best on offense (give the ball to Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson) and play the rest of this season like every game is their last. The rest, as Saban is fond of saying, is clutter.
Offensive MVP: QB Greg McElroy. The easy choice here would be Ingram, and it’s true Alabama might not have beaten Arkansas without him. Of course, he’s also been held in check each of the past two games. McElroy gets the nod based on his entire body of work, his value as a leader and the way he’s managed the offense. He’s thrown nine touchdown passes and only three interceptions and is completing 72.3 percent of his passes.
Defensive MVP: S Mark Barron. With so much inexperience in the Alabama secondary, Barron has had to wear a bunch of different hats back there. All the while, he’s still managed to lead the team in total tackles with 40, and two of those were sacks. Barron’s 31 solo stops are second in the SEC among defensive backs. Florida’s Ahmad Black has 33.