Alabama entered the fifth weekend of the college football season as the unquestioned No. 1 team in the nation.
With the key word being "team."
By defeating its first four foes by a combined 168-21 entering Saturday night's late game against Ole Miss at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Crimson Tide have been able to use a lot of players. Very few starters have needed to go all four quarters, so very few players are racking up huge numbers and attaining stardom as a result.
"We probably have a team that doesn't have as many defined stars as what we've had in the past," Tide coach Nick Saban said. "Of course, you guys define them, so it's not my doing, but we have had a lot of guys who have had a lot of opportunity to play, which is a good thing. Some of those guys have contributed, and because of their contributions they've had an opportunity to improve.
"Hopefully we will continue to have a lot of guys who can make contributions on both sides of the ball, so I think that's probably a good thing."
Mark Ingram rushed for 1,658 yards in 2009 and won Alabama's first Heisman Trophy, and Trent Richardson rushed for 1,679 last year and finished third in the Heisman balloting. The Crimson Tide's top rusher entering Saturday night was freshman T.J. Yeldon, who had 254 yards on only 40 carries, or 10 carries a game.
Yeldon ranked 15th in the Southeastern Conference with 63.5 rushing yards per game, and the Crimson Tide did not have any receivers among the top 15. Junior quarterback AJ McCarron was eighth in the league with 204.8 passing yards a game.
Overall, however, Alabama was averaging a healthy 425 yards - 221 passing and 204 rushing - and 42 points a game.
"You've got to give it to the coaches on that," senior guard Chance Warmack said. "They script it really well for us to make big plays in the air and on the field. It's a tremendous thing to be balanced like that. We take pride in it, and we hope to stay like that for the remainder of the season."
Alabama's biggest stars are on the offense line, which rarely gets attention, and using a lot of players has affected the defensive side as well. Of the top 45 tacklers in the SEC entering Saturday, only junior linebacker C.J. Mosley represented the Crimson Tide.
Mosley entered the Ole Miss game with 29 tackles, which had him tied for 18th in the league.
"C.J. does a really good job," Saban said. "He's very athletic and fast and very instinctive, and he's really a playmaker type of guy as well. He's learned since he's been here to fit the runs a little bit better, and he's gotten a little bigger and stronger.
"With all the spread-out formations that we've played against to this point, he's had a lot of opportunity to make plays, and he's made a lot of plays."