Newest new reality: View of the Big 3 - and their opponents - takes more turns
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
Sep 30, 2012 | 7323 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
 Alabama wide receiver Christion Jones (22) scores a touchdown in Saturday's game against Ole Miss. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
Alabama wide receiver Christion Jones (22) scores a touchdown in Saturday's game against Ole Miss. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
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My neck hurts.

It’s not from the stress and strain of holding up a substantial brain. We all know better.

It’s from all of the sudden, 180-degree head turns of this season.

There once was a time when Alabama couldn’t shake the No. 2 ranking, even when the team above the Crimson Tide lost one of its most dynamic players.

Now, Alabama (5-0), fresh off a 33-14 conquest of Ole Miss, has all but two No. 1 votes in both major polls.

There was a time when Auburn’s game against Arkansas this week had an Auburn loss written all over it.

Has anyone seen Arkansas lately? After losing 58-10 to Texas A&M on Saturday, the Razorbacks have now lost both of their SEC games by a combined score of 110-10.

Suddenly, Auburn (1-3) comes out of a bye week facing a must win in more ways than one.

And what about Jacksonville State?

Once upon a time, scoring 24 points in a season-opening loss at Arkansas meant something. Three weeks later, the Gamecocks (2-2) scored fewer points in an Ohio Valley Conference loss at Eastern Kentucky.

Just when it seemed JSU was on the wrong end of the buy-sell game, just when its head coach seemed openly discouraged, the Gamecocks beat Southeast Missouri 31-16 on Saturday.

Anyone know a good massage therapist? These sudden cranial jerks from left to right and back again find me in need of relief.

Alabama: Near-unanimous

There are 119 combined first-place votes in the Associated Press and USA Today polls, and Alabama has 117 of them this week.

The Crimson Tide has all 60 in the AP poll. LSU and Florida State have one apiece in the USA Today poll.

Interestingly, consensus No. 2 Oregon has no first-place votes.

Alabama getting all but two firsts is amazing, considering how stubbornly No. 2 Alabama was in the preseason and how much folks outside the Southeast fretted Alabama getting a second crack at LSU in last season’s BCS final.

Let’s be clear on what it means. Alabama has impressed, and others have defaulted.

LSU, USA Today’s preseason No. 1, almost lost to Auburn then struggled for a while with Towson on Saturday. Southern Cal, AP’s preseason No. 1 after LSU dismissed Tyrann Mathieu, lost to Stanford.

Meanwhile, LSU joins other Alabama opponents like Arkansas in lost esteem.

It’s not just that Alabama looks so strong. It’s also that other teams make Alabama look more inevitable by comparison.

Auburn: Shaky foundation

At what point does the world give Auburn a break?

The 1-3 Tigers want badly to rebound and salvage something of this season. Their near-upset of LSU gave them positives to take into a bye week, something on which to build.

Then FCS member Towson had its moments against LSU, leading the Tigers at one point en route to a 38-22 loss.

Meanwhile, 1-4 Arkansas, this week’s opponent, continues its fall into a seemingly bottomless canyon, including a 58-10 loss to Texas A&M on Saturday.

Does anyone remember when Arkansas was penciled in as a loss for Auburn this season? Auburn beat their lone common opponent to date, Louisiana-Monroe.

As four losses and John L. Smith’s cringe-worthy, make-him-stop mic moments have mounted, the Arkansas game has evolved from one Auburn can win into a game the Tigers should be depressed to lose.

Yes, it’s Arkansas coming to Auburn within nothing to lose, and Auburn has all of the pressure.

When will the Tigers get a break?

JSU: Nice recovery

A lot about JSU came into question in its 51-21 loss at Eastern Kentucky in the Gamecocks’ OVC opener --- their toughness, for one.

They had their first chance to respond Saturday and answered with an OVC victory, which has to encourage JSU’s coaching staff.

And maybe, just maybe, head coach Jack Crowe warrants some praise here.

The dean of OVC coaches pulled no punches after the EKU game, saying the Colonels' domination up front was like men to boys. Apparently, they got the message and played the part of the men on Saturday.

“We had to come off that loss with the mentality this is never, ever going to happen again,” sophomore nose tackle Caleb Lawrence told The Star. “We’re never going to get dominated like we did last week.

“We had a challenge set for us to dominate the line of scrimmage tonight and as a defensive line we did that.”

At least on this occasion, Crowe seemed to push all the right buttons and turn an ominous OVC opener into a positive with lots of OVC games ahead.

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