The invincibility that once blanketed Alabama football has returned.
It’s different now, of course, compared to what it once was. Before he hired Lane Kiffin to completely overhaul his archaic offensive philosophy, Nick Saban mastered the art of dominating football teams through defense, special teams and just enough offense, normally a running game, that was simply too overwhelming for teams to match.
This version of Alabama is not that. It’s essentially the opposite of that. This version of Alabama, now a -135 favorite to win the national championship at Circa, is almost unrecognizable from the boa constrictor type of football Saban built when he arrived in Tuscaloosa.
And yet, the expectations feel similar. The fear is back. That sense of inevitability is alive and well. And while we speculate over whether Ohio State is deserving of playoff consideration despite playing only five games, it feels like it’s more for show than anything else.
Alabama is 9-0. Despite being dealt an average spread of nearly 24 points, the Crimson Tide are 7-2 against the spread. They have the nation’s No. 3 scoring offense. And, despite a rocky start on that side of the ball, they have the No. 15 scoring defense.
A 29.5-point road favorite against LSU on Saturday, Alabama cruised 55-17 in Baton Rouge — a place that doesn’t typically (or ever) — see spreads of this magnitude. Saban’s team made the football demolition look easy, thanks largely to quarterback Mac Jones and wideout DeVonta Smith. (More on him in a minute.)
Back to the inevitability. While it feels different and it looks much different, it feels like we’re approaching the position we were in back in 2017, 2015, 2012, 2011 and 2009 championship seasons.
Alabama has its swagger back. Sure, there are plenty of reasons why it might not culminate with a national title. For starters, winning one is hard. The Crimson Tide still likely have to face Florida and then, perhaps, Clemson, Notre Dame or Ohio State. If all goes according to plan, they’ll likely play two of those teams.
But the current championship odds speak volumes. And if you watch the way this offense consistently overwhelms the opposition — without star wideout Jaylen Waddle, I might add — then -135, despite the randomness and the quality of the opponents still in play, doesn’t sound all that bad.
It’s different, for certain. And deep down Saban probably hates this brand of football. But it’s hard to deny where Alabama appears to be headed.
Tidbits and Observations
- BYU-Coastal Carolina was football perfection. This was a football Picasso. Forget that the Chanticleers won outright as an 8.5-point underdog, although that certainly played a significant part. The fact that this game was born out of thin air and necessity in a matter of 48 hours, was greeted with overwhelming applause and then somehow actually met the hype is truly magnificent. What a win for Coastal Carolina. Bigger yet, what a season. I thought this team would be physically outmatched against BYU, and it countered that notion by dominating the time of possession. Also, kudos to the Cougars. It’s not easy to accept, prepare or travel cross-country on short notice. They should be commended for that. And that ending? Perfection. Game of the year.
- Michigan-Ohio State isn’t happening. Major COVID-19 issues with the Wolverines derailed this game. While curiosity quickly turns to Ohio State and the College Football Playoff, I am far more intrigued to see what happens to Jim Harbaugh. (Also, I think the Buckeyes will find a way in.) Harbaugh, on the other hand, is in a fascinating scenario. There are rumors this week that he has been offered an extension at a lower salary. There also are rumors that he could return to the NFL. Not a bad spot to be in considering how bad it has been this year. If I’m Harbaugh, I leave Ann Arbor. It’s just not working. Maybe a new staff could help change that. Sure. But it’s hard to escape the hysteria that will follow his every game moving forward. Time for a fresh start.
- For as long as I am writing this column and the award is not announced, I will continue beating the same drum. Give DeVonta Smith the Heisman. Don’t fall in love with the quarterbacks like we do every year. Give it to the best, most impactful player in college football this season. I realize that his quarterback, Mac Jones, is a fantastic football player having a fantastic season. His deep balls have been superb. But Smith is the best player in the sport right now. Last Saturday, he caught three touchdowns and went over 200 yards receiving against LSU … in the first half. He’s a cheat code. He’s the best wideout in Alabama history. He’s a player who should win the Heisman. He won’t, but he should. The voting for this award is broken, which is unfortunate. But to help unbreak it for the others to follow, please spread the word.
- How many of you actually know who Karl Dorrell is? And for those who know of Dorrell, how much do you know about him? Be honest. Dorrell is the head coach at Colorado. His team is 4-0. When Dorrell was hired after the departure of Mel Tucker to Michigan State in late February, it felt like a bit of a reach. Dorrell was the Dolphins’ wide receivers coach before he was hired to lead Colorado in a pinch. The collective response was somewhere between “meh” and laughter. And while beating UCLA, Stanford, San Diego State and Arizona isn’t exactly the definitive path to coaching brilliance, kudos for a great start. Colorado is a nice story in a weird year.
- Kansas covered a game against the spread. Call your family. Sounds the alarms. Life can return to normal. I feel obligated to keep you informed on all Kansas football matters because we’re in too deep at this point. Heading into their game against Texas Tech, the Jayhawks were winless against the spread. Although the Red Raiders were a 26.5-point favorite, Kansas ultimately lost 16-13. For those rooting for Kansas to go an entire season without covering a game, those dreams are over. And for Texas Tech fans, well, woof.