Upset bug? What upset bug? There’s no such virus in the air in Tuscaloosa.
Ranked teams losing to unranked teams is the kind of thing that tends to become contagious on certain college football weekends. This was one of those weekends, the kind where little is expected in terms of drama but much is delivered.
One after another, top-10 teams came down with the worst symptoms. From upstate New York to northern California to the swamps of Louisiana, one heavy favorite after another lost its way.
Then there was Alabama.
Standing alone. Standing tall. Still standing as the undefeated No. 1 team in the nation after flicking Arkansas off its lapel 41-9.
It didn’t matter in these parts that No. 2 Clemson had lost at Syracuse and No. 8 Washington State had fallen at Cal, both on Friday night. Except for the entertainment value, no one here much cared that No. 10 Auburn found a new way to lose per usual at LSU by spitting up a giant hairball of a 20-0 lead.
Alabama did what Alabama does, ignoring the chaos, punching another defenseless sparring partner in the throat at the opening bell, turning the rest of the evening into a well-attended scrimmage.
It was 17-0 after 15 minutes, 24-0 before the Hogs kicked a field goal and 41-3 before the visitors found the end zone.
What else would you expect from a take-no-prisoners program that hasn’t suffered a loss to an unranked opponent since 2007? Arkansas hasn’t gotten the better of Alabama since 2006, the year before Nick Saban took command.
Granted, this isn’t the kind of Arkansas team Bret Bielema was hired to deliver but so far has failed to produce except on rare occasions. These Hogs arrived as more of a precious little pot-bellied pig you keep as a pet than a tusk-baring, hair-raising razorback that just might bite you.
These little Piggies were out of their depth and played like it from the start, but give backup quarterback Cole Kelley credit. Pressed into service because Austin Allen was too wounded to go, Kelley showed plenty of guts in his first college start.
That’s not a fat joke. Against the relentless Alabama defense, the 6-foot-7, 268-pounder gave Arkansas some hope for the future.
Alabama, as is its habit, gave the visitors no hope from the start that they could recreate the magic of Syracuse, Cal and LSU. Those unranked upstarts authored their upsets at home, and none of them did so against the machine that routinely sucks the soul out of its opposition.
If Arkansas had any ambition packed in its equipment trunks, it vanished quicker than Damien Harris through a hole with the end zone in sight. As he did at Texas A&M, Alabama’s slugger hit an early home run to set the tone, this time from 75 yards on the night’s first snap.
Harris finished with nine carries for 125 yards and two touchdowns, adding to his growing reputation as the SEC’s best running back.
There was a hiccup or two along the way, including freshman Henry Ruggs III fumbling away a punt return and Jalen Hurts throwing his first interception since last year’s Iron Bowl, but there was no doubt.
There are top-10 teams, and then there’s No. 1 Alabama. Standing alone, the gap between it and its pursuers as wide as ever.