On paper, Alabama might have enough depth to make up for the loss of star tailback Ahmaad Galloway.
In terms of intangibles, however, Crimson Tide coach Dennis Franchione said Galloway is virtually impossible to replace.
"The most significant loss with Ahmaad is we lost a great person, a great leader, a chemistry guy," Franchione said of Galloway, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week's 20-7 win over Southern Mississippi. "When somebody needed to pick up the pace of practice, he didn't wait on the coaches to do it. He did it, and he made the people around him better."
Juniors Santonio Beard and Shaud Williams are the most logical replacements for Galloway, who was Alabama's leading rusher in 2000 and 2001. Williams accounted for 135 of the Crimson Tide's 351 rushing yards against Southern Miss. Sophomore Ray Hudson will also figure into the mix.
"They are capable of picking up that slack," said Franchione, whose team plays at Arkansas on Saturday before playing host to No. 8 Georgia on Oct. 5. "It may take all three, but they are capable."
Another issue is the health of quarterback Tyler Watts, who suffered a foot injury against the Golden Eagles. Citing a policy he has adhered to for the past few years, Franchione said he won't comment on an injury unless it is season-ending.
"I just don't see any advantage in me talking about injuries," he said. "I don't see any advantage in exposing our players to every little bump and bruise they have. There's nothing to be gained by it, and I think it offers a little bit of protection for them over the course of the season, too."
A LITTLE PATIENCE: Georgia's offense proved it can roll up big numbers against an inferior opponent in last week's 45-7 win over Northwestern State. Coach Mark Richt hopes his unit proves it can be patient when New Mexico State visits Saturday.
"I think they're going to force us to run those eight- and 12-play drives to score, and I don't know if we're disciplined enough to do that," Richt said.
RUSHING THREAT: Before the season, what were the odds that this week's game between Kentucky and Florida would be an SEC showdown? About as low as the Wildcats' chances of having a running back atop the conference's rushing statistics.
Artose Pinner probably best exemplifies Kentucky's amazing 4-0 start - its best since 1984. The senior tailback leads the SEC and is 12th nationally with 126.9 rushing yards per game.
Florida coach Ron Zook, whose No. 7 Gators play host to the Wildcats on Saturday (3:30 p.m., CBS-Ch. 12), said an effective running threat makes Kentucky more difficult to prepare for.
"They've got a guy that can run the football," Zook said. "He can catch the football out of the backfield, he's great with screens, he's got great hands, and he's got great acceleration and quickness.
"It keeps your defense from being able to gang up," Zook said. "If you can do both things, run and pass, it's a double-edge sword."
Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.