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SoonerTimes Home > SoonerTimes > OU Sports > Is Alabama's gulf shrinking on the rest of college football?


Is Alabama's gulf shrinking on the rest of college football?
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47Straight
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 Posted: Wed Jan 13th, 2021 03:40 am

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by Berry Tramel

Alabama walloped Ohio State 52-24 Monday night, and college football parity seemed deader than ever. The Crimson Tide was so much better than every other team, even the bluebloods seem locked out of hope for a championship parade.

Heck, the thrashing was so complete, when coupled with a 31-14 semifinal rout of Notre Dame, the talk in Tuscaloosa quickly shifted historic. Was this the best Crimson Tide of all time?

But before you go into the long winter with a sense of dread, be encouraged. The gulf between Alabama and the Sooners/Buckeyes/Fighting Irish/Bulldogs/name-your-team is not as great as you might think.

Don’t get me wrong. This Alabama squad was great. Best ever? That’s a Bama question. I’ll let Alabamans pontificate on Alabama stuff. If they won’t tell me who to pick between Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer, I won’t tell them which Nick Saban team to pit against which Bear Bryant team.

But there is plenty of evidence for the affirmative.

The Tide went 13-0. Saban teams now have won six of the last 12 national championships. But only one other Bama squad during the dynasty went unbeaten.

I know. Hard to believe. We always think of Alabama never losing, unless it’s to Clemson in the Big Bowl. But while Saban’s 2009 squad went 14-0, his other title teams were scarred — losing to LSU in 2011, Texas A&M in 2012, Ole Miss in 2015 and Auburn in 2017.

And Alabama’s unbeaten 2020 is more legit than virtually any other unbeaten squad in decades. The Crimson Tide played no exhibitions.
 
In 2009, Alabama beat Florida International, North Texas and Chattanooga. That’s a standard Tide schedule.

But nothing about 2020 was standard. Bama played 10 Southeastern Conference opponents, including Georgia, Tennessee and Missouri from the SEC East. Then the Crimson Tide outlasted Florida in the conference title game. Finally, Notre Dame and Ohio State in the playoff.

That’s 13 legitimate victories. Most Alabama teams have 11. That’s two more than any other Saban team.

“I think we're the best team to ever play,” said Bama quarterback Mac Jones. “There's no team that will ever play an SEC schedule like that again.”

Still, there was something different about this Alabama team. In Bama’s three biggest games — Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State — the Crimson Tide didn’t push anybody around.

The defensive line didn’t dominate. The defensive backs didn’t look like they had been transplanted from the Seattle Seahawks. The offensive line didn’t create massive holes.

Alabama won with a lights-out offense, and that lights-out-offense wasn’t Batman-like. “Where does he get all those wonderful toys?” is not a question for Saban this year.

Saban’s toys really are two. Tailback Najee Harris is fantastic and receiver DeVonta Smith is one of the best college players I’ve ever seen.

Harris finds television’s yellow first-down line like ants find marmalade, but he’s more than tough. He’s a maestro in the open field. Harris hurdled a Notre Dame defender who didn’t duck all that low, and Harris made some acrobatic catch-and-runs against the Buckeyes.

Smith in the first half Monday night had 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns. He was uncoverable and uncatchable, and that’s against Ohio State! Then Smith suffered a dislocated finger in the first 40 seconds of the second half and didn’t play again.

No matter. Smith’s dominance was assured. With Smith, Bama outscored the engaged Buckeyes 35-17. Without Smith, it was a 17-7 game and Ohio State mostly was going through the motions.

Ohio State wasn’t outclassed on the lines or in the secondary or at quarterback. Ohio State was outclassed by two Alabama playmakers. That’s not a large gulf to cross.

A thousand things go into winning a football game, but I’m not so sure that Bama beats Ohio State without Harris and Smith. Saban has had an assembly line of great tailbacks, but he’s never had a receiver like Smith, a runaway Heisman Trophy winner. If Saban has another Smith in the hatch, God have mercy upon all our souls. But if not, Alabama can be beaten.

“We've had teams here that have had probably more talent overall,” Saban admitted. “This team accomplished more almost than any team. I think there's quite a bit to write about when it comes to the legacy of the team.”

It’s a wonderful program. The Tide doesn’t do a bunch of trash-talking. Saban’s non-conference schedule often is soft, but he’s politicked for the entire SEC to beef up its opponents, either via non-conference or an extra league game. In this sport, that qualifies as heroic. The only thing to really dislike about Alabama is it wins so danged much.

Maybe the Crimson Tide’s dominance is slowing. Saban won three national titles in four years; 2009-12. Now he’s won three in eight years, and one of those came via an overtime survival of Georgia. If college football can keep Saban on that same trend — three titles in 12 or 16 years — maybe the sport can spread the wealth a little.

And it doesn’t hurt that the reasons Saban won it in 2020, Smith and Harris, are NFL-bound.

https://oklahoman.com/article/5680198/tramel-is-alabamas-gulf-shrinking-on-the-rest-of-college-football?fbclid=IwAR3vecQ-98o4JmxMuH5y8k4hDf0VKVQC7EYnU-2DB0tlP53gj6TzltOIKUY

ClintA.Adams
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 Posted: Sat Jan 16th, 2021 11:37 pm

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The best team ever don't give up 45 points in a closely contested game.


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