On a hand-wringing Monday morning, that is the most prevalent postgame analysis for the whipping Michigan took at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday.
The pre-season pollsters simply got it wrong. For all the hype — the flash and burn spread offense, the talent of quarterback Denard Robinson and the supposedly strong secondary — these Wolverines could not have been a top-10 team.
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That is the only plausible explanation. Because to believe otherwise is to believe that the defending national champions are better this year than they were last.
And that possibility is far too overwhelming for the average football mind to comprehend.
Alabama was supposed to win, but it also was supposed to be a good game. That was why it was in Cowboys Stadium at night and on national television. This was the marquee season-opener, the big game of an otherwise warm-up weekend. The Tide weren’t supposed to make the No. 8 team in the country look like North Texas.
The fact that Alabama’s defense shut Michigan’s offense down came as something of a surprise. The shocker was how overwhelming and intense Nick Saban’s squad looked doing it.
Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart called a near flawless defensive game. But play calling is meaningless if you don’t have the players to execute.
Alabama clearly has the personnel, even with a young secondary and linebacker corps.
The Wolverines went 3 of 12 on third down and looked as though they wouldn’t hit the 200-yard mark in total offense. It wasn’t until the game was out of hand that Michigan put together a drive or two to reach 268 yards. Most who saw the game were surprised it was that high.
Then there was the offense: a historical question mark in Tuscaloosa. A.J. McCarron had a great BCS Championship game, but how would that carry over? And what would the running back situation be like without workhorse Trent Richardson churning out tough yards and wearing down opposing defenses?
That answers came quickly.
McCarron passed for 199 yards and two touchdowns while Eddie Lacy and freshman T.J. Yelding had many spectators wondering how Saban continues to find one NFL caliber back after another.
Lacy set the tone by running over and through the Michigan defense. No one play was more emblematic of the night than Lacy’s nine-yard bulldozing run for the Tide’s third touchdown. That was when Wolverine helmets began hanging low. Everyone knew it was going to be a long and ugly night.
Yelding also had a breakout performance. The bruising freshman ran for 111 yards on 11 carries — not against Buffalo or Bowling Green or Hawaii, but against the No. 8 team in the land.
But Michigan had to be overrated. No top-10 team takes a 41-14 drubbing like that. Alabama can’t be that good. This is USC’s year. Or Florida State’s. Or Oklahoma’s.
This was just a fluke — a week-one, cobweb-cleaning aberration, in no way indicative of what the rest of the year portends.
Because to believe otherwise would mean accepting the fact that Saban has fielded yet another virtually unstoppable force of nature.
And that is a reality that most college football fans simply cannot bear.