Joe Medley: Future challenges come into focus for Big 3
by Joe Medley
Sep 17, 2012 | 3056 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Left to right: Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron (photo by Danny Johnston/AP); Auburn receiver Sammie Coates (photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star); JSU running back Troymaine Pope (photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star).
Left to right: Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron (photo by Danny Johnston/AP); Auburn receiver Sammie Coates (photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star); JSU running back Troymaine Pope (photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star).
Last week was fun, mulling how our Big 3 world had changed with Louisiana-Monroe’s upset of Arkansas. A week later, the more things change … well, you know the rest.

A disintegrating Arkansas team continued its disintegration against Alabama (3-0) on Saturday. A 52-0 victory earned the Crimson Tide all but two possible first-place votes in this week’s Associated Press poll, but Alabama coach Nick Saban still has the problem of motivating his team.

Auburn (1-2) averted disaster by surviving Louisiana-Monroe 31-28 in overtime, or did the disappointing Tigers just put off disaster?

Jacksonville State (2-0) had the week off to prepare for its Ohio Valley Conference opener at Eastern Kentucky.

It’s a rematch of the Gamecocks’ epic late-game collapse at home a year ago. JSU coach Jack Crowe’s statements about lessons learned could make for an interesting week, but it’s all part of a two-week buildup.

This after a Saturday that changed little.

Alabama: Nick's kids

It’s a helluva thing, being too good for your own good.

All of those games won, all of those recruiting battles won, all of those disappointing opponents, all of those converted first-place votes, and Saban somehow must keep his team motivated until it plays a game it could actually lose.

That would be Nov. 3 at LSU. Until then, Alabama has Florida Atlantic, Ole Miss, Missouri, Tennessee and Mississippi State.

Let’s see, Florida Atlantic lost 56-20 to Georgia on Saturday, and Ole Miss lost 66-31 to Texas.

Missouri, considered the most SEC-ready new member, got humbled by Georgia a week ago. Without injured quarterback James Franklin on Saturday, the Tigers got a scare from Arizona State.

Tennessee failed its biggest test against Florida on Saturday, and Mississippi State got a scare from Troy.

Saban tries hard to keep his team motivated, so much so that his rants before the media have become a sideshow. Still, opponents keep disappointing, and poll voters keep bending to the obvious.

Geez. Can the most powerful coach in all of sports get a little outside help, or what?

Auburn: It is what it is

So, Auburn avoided its first 0-3 start since 1950 and the full-blown comeapart that would have followed a loss to Louisiana-Monroe.

The victory in overtime a week after ULM won at Arkansas actually means a little something, though Saturday’s events in Fayetteville clearly show a full-blown comeapart in progress there.

Auburn’s chances against Arkansas on Oct. 6 suddenly look a lot better, even if quarterback Tyler Wilson keeps his word to fill a leadership void he seemed to say exists there.

And the void exists. Those who heard postgame talk radio in Arkansas on Saturday heard nothing but talk of the Razorbacks’ imminent search to replace interim coach John L. Smith, and it might be more imminent now.

Still, a quick look at the schedule shows that Auburn will play No. 2 LSU this week. LSU crushed Auburn 45-10 in Baton Rouge a year ago, and we’ve seen nothing out of Auburn or LSU to suggest this year’s rematch will be much different, other than the venue.

Looking deeper down the schedule — and given what we’ve seen out of Auburn — it’s hard to find the six wins necessary for bowl eligibility.

But 1-2 is better than 0-3, 2-3 would be better than 1-4. Also, beating ULM actually means a little something now, so things are looking up.

Jacksonville State: This one personal?

Jacksonville State fans have lived and relived the nightmare of the Gamecocks’ come-from-ahead loss to Eastern Kentucky last year. JSU coach Jack Crowe has vowed not to relive it again.

Almost a year later, JSU goes into the rematch in Richmond off an open date and hoping to again be in a position to do what Crowe has said he will do, given the chance.

“When I did with seven minutes left to go in the ballgame what I thought was, quote-unquote, ‘the right thing to do?’ I’ll just say this,” he said back during JSU’s media day in August, echoing previous statements. “If anybody ever says anything else about running up the score again, don’t say it to my face.

“Right then we should have just put on the steam and beat the hell out of them.”

It’s doubtful that even Crowe expects to have that opportunity Saturday. Anyone familiar with Eastern’s history in FCS knows that teams rarely go to Richmond and “beat the hell out of them.”

Still, won’t it be interesting if JSU plays its way to anything close to the 24-point lead it blew against EKU last year?

Though Crowe’s words were meant as self-criticism because he put reserves in the game last year, it’ll be interesting to see how his words play in Richmond.

Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.
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