Following five years of coaching tumult and NCAA scandal, Alabama is showing signs of a resurgence. The Crimson Tide, 10-15 in coach Mike Shula's first two seasons, improved to 3-0 last Saturday with an impressive 37-14 win at South Carolina. The 'Bama defense was already among the best in the country, but the offense is finally catching up, having gained 489 yards--high for the Shula era--against a good Gamecocks defense. For the first time in three years, senior quarterback Brodie Croyle (above) is fully healthy, and wideout Tyrone Prothro has emerged as one of the nation's most dangerous playmakers. But the Tide still lacks depth. Because of NCAA sanctions Alabama lost 21 scholarships over the past three years, so the program has 77 scholarship players, nine of whom are former walk-ons or last-minute signees. The Tide can't afford injuries to key players if it expects to contend in the SEC West.
Miami allowed 14 sacks in its first two games (a 10-7 loss to Florida State and last Saturday's 36-30 triple-overtime win over Clemson). That's two more than the Hurricanes allowed in the 2000 and '01 seasons combined.... For the first time since Nov. 3, 1969, neither Nebraska nor Oklahoma is ranked in the weekly AP poll.... Louisville needed only 50 plays and 20:36 of possession time to pile up 553 yards of offense in a 63-27 win over Oregon State.... Thanks to a 38-14 win over Kentucky, Indiana is off to its first 3-0 start since 1994, and Terry Hoeppner is the first coach to start his Hoosiers career with three victories since James Sheldon in 1905.
THREE AND OUT
1. Nobody's doubting USC's remarkable offense--not after the Trojans gained 736 yards in last week's 70-17 win over Arkansas--but the first real test of its rebuilt defense comes this Saturday at Oregon (3-0). The Ducks, led by senior quarterback Kellen Clemens, are averaging 491 yards and 41 points.
2. Texas A&M quarterback Reggie McNeal (right) should be in the thick of the Heisman race by season's end. The multitalented senior had the best performance of his career in the Aggies' 66-8 victory over SMU, throwing for 348 yards and five touchdowns and rushing six times for 100 yards and a score.
3. Somewhere, John Elway is cringing. Stanford, which lured coach Walt Harris away from Pitt last winter, hoping he'd lift the Cardinal from mediocrity, instead hit a new low last Saturday, losing 20-17 to UC Davis (1-2), a longtime Division II power playing its first season in I-AA. The Aggies amassed 361 total yards while holding the Cardinal to 192, just 40 in the second half.