There was never really any doubt, was there?
Sure, perhaps the more novice college football afficianados among us thought, for at least a minute or two, that Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide really were in deep trouble late in the fourth quarter against LSU last week. Perhaps some newbies to the game figured that the Tide would wilt under the massive pressure--down three, on the road, in Death Valley, with nothing short of the entire season on the line. Perhaps the folks who don't yet fully understand Saban's mastery started doing the BCS math in their heads, trying to figure out what it would mean in the big-picture sense if Alabama were to lose to those feisty Tigers.
But for most of us--the ones who have been watching college football ever so closely over the past few years, as Saban has gone about the business of building that dynasty in Tuscaloosa--knew that 'Bama was never really in peril. Because with Saban running the show, we just knew those Tide players weren't going to be rattled, not in the least, and that some way and somehow, the Alabama freight train would just keep right on rolling.
And yes, in the end, that's precisely what happened.
Quarterback A.J. McCarron, so completely ineffective all evening, came to life when it mattered most, completing 4 of 5 passes during a frantic last-minute drive that culminated with a 28-yard screen pass touchdown to the spectacular T.J. Yeldon. The final score? 'Bama 21, LSU 17.
It was a heartbreaking defeat for the Tigers, to be sure. But again, it was hardly unexpected.
Even when the Tigers took the lead, they had to know they were up against a superior opponent--one that, in the end, simply would not be denied.
I've been saying for weeks now that Alabama is head and shoulders above everyone else in the country. Their latest result only makes me more convinced that I'm right.
♦ And then there's Oregon. Look, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that the Ducks, now 9-0 after a 62-51 win over USC in Los Angeles, are anything but a superb football team. Because they are precisely that, especially on offense. To the surprise of nobody, Chip Kelly's troops lead the nation in points-per-game (a staggering 54.3) and are especially lethal on the ground (341.2 per game). Their point totals this year are almost unbelievable: In their nine games, they have scored 57, 42, 63, 49, 51, 52, 43, 70 and 62 points. I mean, it's insane folks. It really is. And yet I still my doubts about this bunch, and there's one reason why: The defense. The Ducks are certainly stronger this year on that side of the ball than they've been in recent years, and for the most part, that unit has done more than enough to get their team comfortable wins all season long. But given what we know about Alabama, I'm just not sure I can see a team that just gave up 51 points and 615 total yards actually knocking off the Tide. The cliche stands: Defense wins championships.
♦ Finally, one quick note on the sad, sad Big Ten. I tuned in this week to watch two Big Ten match-ups: Michigan vs Minnesota in the battle for the Little Brown Jug, and Penn State vs. Purdue in the battle for, well, nothing. Michigan breezed past the Gophers rather easily, and the Nits crushed a fast-sinking Purdue team, but in the end, the results weren't what I will remember about these two games. What I'll remember, instead, is just how bad Big Ten football looks these days. There is a stunning dearth of athletes across this conference at the moment, and because of this, we here in Big Ten country are watching a lot of slow, plodding, boring football. I don't know how the Big Ten can reverse this trend, but I do know the league can't afford to keep trotting out a product like this. People have other options. Specifically, other options down South.