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Recently, Tide has turned

Alabama is now rolling

Before the season, the hype in the Southeastern Conference had been about Florida and new coach Urban Meyer, about Georgia, about South Carolina and new coach Steve Spurrier, about Tennessee, about Auburn, and about Louisiana State.

But Alabama? Sure the Crimson Tide were the most storied program in the SEC. But coach Mike Shula's team seemed no more than an afterthought as it appeared set only to struggle for respectability.

Well, the Tide are now 3-0 following a 37-14 romp over South Carolina Saturday that was so impressive one could almost hear the ''Roll Tide" chants starting to build. ''They could have beaten us 50-0," said Spurrier, who had to endure the worst home loss of his career.

''We showed everybody on TV we're for real," said Alabama tackle Kyle Tatum.

Said Shula, who has endured his share of slings and arrows the past few years, ''We'll take it, but that doesn't mean we've arrived or we're there."

With home conference games against Florida, Tennessee, and LSU, don't be surprised if the Tide are ready to roll into the SEC West slot of the title game by the time they travel to Auburn for their traditional Iron Bowl encounter Nov. 19.

While Alabama, which was unranked in the writers' poll and No. 24 in the coaches' poll last week, was looking for respect, No. 1 Southern California was adding to the amount of respect it already receives with a 70-17 pounding of Arkansas in its home opener.

''I definitely think we're starting to send a message about the offense, that we've got a lot of weapons," said all-purpose talent Reggie Bush, who scored the first two times he touched the ball and was part of an offense that scored the most points of any USC team since 1970. ''The teams that are going to be playing us, you'd just better be ready."

Since the Trojans play four of their next five games on the road, including one against an unbeaten Oregon team that outlasted previously unbeaten Fresno State Saturday night, 37-34, the whipping of the Razorbacks served to say, ''If you want us, here we are."

USC coach Pete Carroll could only shake his head at the way the Trojans have been piling up the points, Saturday building a 28-7 lead in the first quarter and a 42-10 bulge at the half. ''I can't ask them to score slower," said Carroll. All USC did was score the first eight times it had the ball.

Across town, UCLA was improving to 3-0 with a 41-24 win over Oklahoma, which could mean it will be an interesting rivalry game Dec. 3 between the Trojans and Bruins.

Club on beam

Do you think Virginia Tech is ready for this weekend's battle with Georgia Tech? The Hokies rolled over Ohio University, 45-0, Saturday, which combined with a 45-0 win over Duke last week, gives Frank Beamer's club a two-game victory margin of 90-0 . . . Welcome to the roller coaster ride that is Southern Methodist. The Mustangs pulled off a tremendous upset last week when they knocked off a Texas Christian team that had upset Oklahoma in Norman the week before. Saturday, SMU got a reality check when it faced old Southwest Conference rival Texas A&M. Final score: Texas A&M 66, SMU 8 . . . When new Stanford coach Walt Harris saw California-Davis on his schedule this year, he must have smiled and shaken his head. A few years ago UC-Davis was playing Division 2, and while the game might have looked easy for the Cardinal, the risk-reward ratio was off the charts. This season Cal-Davis upgraded to Division 1-AA and scheduled Stanford, which built a 17-7 lead. Final score: UC-Davis 20, Stanford 17. ''I'm feeling ill," said Stanford defensive tackle Babatunde Oshinowo. ''Davis came to play and we didn't. This was one of the worst games I've ever seen."

It was the pits

It was a bad weekend for coaches with Pitt ties. Not only did Harris, who coached the Panthers to a Fiesta Bowl berth last season, lose to UC-Davis in his home debut, but his old team, guided by former NFL coach Dave Wannstedt, dropped a 7-6 decision to Nebraska, which left Pitt with an 0-3 record and more and more restless fans . . . Miami pulled out a 36-30 overtime win over Clemson Saturday, which was the good news for the Hurricanes. The bad news? The normally overpowering Canes offensive line has allowed 14 sacks in two games against Clemson and Florida State . . . Notre Dame's loss to Michigan State now puts even more focus on the Irish's meeting with Washington and former coach Tyrone Willingham Saturday. An Irish win will put coach Charlie Weis's team back on track. A loss? After the hoopla following Notre Dame's first two wins, dropping to 2-2 would be hard for Leahy's Lads to swallow, especially with unbeatens Purdue and USC waiting for them the next two games . . . Why is Tennessee-Florida, won by the Gators, 16-7, Saturday night, such a big deal to the faithful of both teams? Since 1992, when the SEC went to its two-division format, the winner of the Florida-Tennessee game has won the SEC East nine times. ''It's a tough loss, but it's not the end of the season," said Tennessee coach Phil Fullmer. No, but a loss at LSU this weekend could speed up that process.

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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