Thanks to a dominant road win over a ranked foe, Alabama moved in position to reach its first BCS championship game.
The next test for the second-ranked Crimson Tide is Saturday night's matchup against visiting No. 22 South Carolina.
Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC) jumped past Texas in the latest ranking after last Saturday's 22-3 victory at then-No. 20 Mississippi. The Crimson Tide forced quarterback Jevan Snead - a dark-horse Heisman Trophy candidate at the beginning of this season - to throw four interceptions and held Ole Miss to 72 rushing yards.
Sophomore running back Mark Ingram, meanwhile, had a career-best 172 yards and scored the game's only touchdown on a 36-yard run with 55 seconds left before halftime. Leigh Tiffin added a career-high five field goals.
"This was the most complete win we've had all year, in a difficult situation," coach Nick Saban said. "It's like climbing a mountain. The higher you go the more treacherous it gets."
Alabama, ranked No. 5 in the preseason, took sole command in the SEC West as rival Auburn fell at Arkansas and LSU lost to No. 1 Florida. If Alabama wins the division, it could face the top-ranked Gators in the conference championship game Dec. 5 in Atlanta with a BCS title bid on the line.
Last season, Saban led the Crimson Tide to their first undefeated regular season since 1994. Heading into the SEC title game with the No. 1 ranking, the Tide fell 31-20 to then-No. 2 Florida as the Gators went on to claim the national title.
Alabama followed with a 31-17 loss to undefeated Utah in the Sugar Bowl.
"Can we stay focused on doing the things that we need to do to improve, to be as good as we can be?" Saban asked. "We cannot get complacent because that is the key to the drill. The passion to want to do it, the passion to stay with it, the passion to continue to go through the grind, and there are numerous teams every week that have a difficult time with that and don't play well."
The Crimson Tide will first have to stop a South Carolina team that's searching for its fifth straight victory, which would tie the longest single-season run in Steve Spurrier's four-plus seasons at the school.
The Gamecocks (5-1, 2-1) won six in a row from Nov. 18, 2006-Sept. 15, 2007. They began 6-1 in 2007 but followed with five straight losses and finished last season with three consecutive defeats following a 7-3 start.
They'll try to write a different ending this time, but need a better performance than last week's 28-26 win over visiting Kentucky. South Carolina trailed by three at halftime, but used freshman Alshon Jeffery's third touchdown catch and quarterback Stephen Garcia's 1-yard run to hold on for a victory.
"We're certainly not going to be favored at Alabama," Spurrier said. "But we'll have a plan in place."
That plan could be the same as in a 16-10 home win over then-No. 4 Mississippi on Sept. 24, which snapped a 28-year drought against Top 5 teams.
In that game, the Gamecocks relied on their defense, currently ranked 15th in FBS, to hold the Rebels to three points in the first 45 minutes while their offense scored 10 in the third quarter to help them pull away.
"We're a team that hopes we get it in a close game," Spurrier said. "It seems like every one of our games has been very close, at halftime anyway. And then we've played pretty decently the second half of most of them. So we'll hope that game follows that script right there."
However, South Carolina will face Alabama's 17th-ranked offense (444.7 yards per game) that's 12th in FBS with an average of 37 points. The Crimson Tide also boast the nation's No. 2 defense (220.5 yards) and are eighth nationally in allowing 12.5 points per game.
"I think they're just going to come play their defense and come have a go at us and see what we can do," Spurrier said.
Alabama is 5-2 against ranked teams since the beginning of last season and won at then-No. 7 Virginia Tech 34-24 in its season opener Sept. 5.
Spurrier has faced the Crimson Tide once with South Carolina, a 37-14 home loss on Sept. 17, 2005. Alabama leads the series 11-2, including a 8-1 mark in its home state.
The Gamecocks' only win in Tuscaloosa was 20-3 on Oct. 2, 2004.