- Alex Scarborough, ESPN Staff Writer
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It hasn't happened yet, but coach Nick Saban is still guarding against a let down with the University of Alabama host Florida Atlantic on Saturday.
The sixth-year head coach has stressed being prepared for every opponent and not letting adversity hit before there can be improvement. He wants to see the resolve even when the Tide are undefeated and dominating their schedule early on.
"It's human nature to get motivated when something bad happens," Saban said on Wednesday's SEC coaches teleconference. "But why do you need one of these 'I told you so' games and just respond by doing what you need to do to be the best that you can be."
No. 1-ranked Alabama will look to take another step forward in its progression.
1. Keeping the offense rolling: AJ McCarron and the Alabama offense are rolling into Week 4, having put up 42.7 points per game, good enough for 17th in the country. McCarron, individually, has done even better, coming in third overall in passing efficiency with a rating of 196.6. His streak of games without an interception rose to six after Saturday's blowout. The offensive line performed better against Arkansas than the week before, but Saban stressed the need for better protection and cutting down on penalties.
2. Another SEC showdown for the Owls: Florida Atlantic's athletic director didn't do Carl Pelini any favors, scheduling road trips to Athens, Ga., and Tuscaloosa in consecutive weeks. Hopefully the payoff is worth it because it likely won't do much for the morale of the team. Said Pelini: "It's not optimal, but what are you going to do?" FAU stayed with Georgia through the first two quarters only to get the doors blown off in the second half, falling 56-20 in the end. Georgia set a school record with 713 total yards of offense.
3. Defensive trends: For nine straight quarters, the Alabama defense hasn't given up a single point. Can that continue against FAU? And can the string of turnovers continue as well? Alabama has rocketed to No. 1 in the country with 12 turnovers gained, a far cry from a season ago where the Tide gained just 20. Turnovers aren't the only thing the defense hopes to continue forcing. Against Arkansas, the defense had its best game getting in the backfield, racking up four sacks and 10 tackles for loss.
4. Back to form? Eddie Lacy looked like the explosive, bruising tailback of old in Fayetteville, Ark. He said he felt the best he has in a while, and center Barrett Jones went as far as to hug him on his first touchdown. "It kind of felt like he's back," Jones said. "We kind of saw that old Eddie." While he's not 100 percent yet, the return of a Lacy to last season's form could make the running game that much more dynamic.
5. Twos and threes: There wasn't a whole lot for Saban to be unhappy about after throttling Arkansas 52-0 on Saturday, but he found his target in Alabama's backups. "Those guys, we practice all that stuff and they don't go out and do it right in the game," he said. "They don't do as well on the test because they don't think they're going to play." Against FAU, it's safe to say those players will get a second chance at cleanup duty. And if they hope to make an impact this season, Saturday might be one of the few chances to prove they're capable.
3dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough