We exit September with the understanding that Alabama, in football, is first and fundamentally foremost.
It's almost universal.
USA Today coaches' weekly mystery-misery index.
One coach thinks Florida State is No. 1 and another, incredibly, is still punching Louisiana State's card.
Apparently this coach found impressive a 38-22 win against sub-division Towson in front of a home Louisiana State crowd that left early in droves.
Maybe it was LSU's five fumbles (three lost) that impressed the coach, or Les Miles' postgame comments, "I thought we played down to our opponent … I must not have prepared them well."
The USA Today coaches just can't shake LSU — it's like breaking up with a girlfriend. Last week they penned a "Dear Les" letter only when it was obvious Oregon had to be jumped to No. 2. The Ducks defeated Arizona, 49-0, on the same day LSU only outlasted Auburn, 12-10.
This week was equally obvious to AP voters, who dropped LSU to No. 4 behind Alabama, Oregon and Florida State.
The USA Today coaches, though, just can't quit LSU.
So the Tigers are still No. 3.
The situation is this: Alabama is clearly No. 1 and probably in the market for a title-game partner.
Alabama continues to play a style unfamiliar to the current college game: run, stop the run, don't make mistakes and soundly defeat your opponents.
Alabama's top-ranked scoring defense has allowed 35 points in five games. The offensive line already looks NFL-ready.
There was panic attack in Tuscaloosa when Mississippi took a 7-6 lead because it marked the first time Alabama had trailed in regulation since last year against Tennessee.
It took the Crimson Tide 15 seconds to reclaim the lead, on the ensuing kickoff return for a score, and order was restored in a 33-14 win.
Other game boxes around the country gushed yards. West Virginia and Baylor hemorrhaged for more than 1,500, Oklahoma State and Texas combined for 1,016 while Fresno State and San Diego State totaled 994.
Alabama held Ole Miss to a tidy 218.
Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban is always going to nitpick. He told people Ole Miss would come ready to play. "Nobody really listens to me until after the fact," Saban said after the fact.
The challengers to Alabama all have pros and cons.