No. 1 Alabama steps out of SEC to host Chattanooga
With chaos ensuing in the college football world last week with half of the nation's Top 10 — including the Nos. 2, 3, and 4 teams — all losing, No. 1 Alabama delivered a message as it emerged as the only undefeated team from a Power 5 conference.
And that message?
“The message is when you win, you control your own destiny,” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said. “When you don't, you allow someone else to determine what your fate's going to be. We have all these teams that lost one game now.
“Somebody has to decide who gets to do what.”
Top-ranked Alabama (10-0) hosts Chattanooga (8-2) on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2) at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
Almost, but not quite, overlooked as the upsets of No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Michigan, No. 4 Ohio State, No. 8 Texas A&M, and No. 9 Auburn rolled in during the afternoon and evening last weekend was that the Crimson Tide clinched the SEC West.
The 52-3 rout of Mississippi State coupled with Auburn's loss at Georgia left them with a two-game cushion in the standings with only one SEC game left on the card. No matter what happens now, Alabama is a lock to play in the SEC championship game in Atlanta on Dec. 3.
Also, no matter how it fares against Auburn in the Iron Bowl, the Tide looks to be heavily favored to beat the East winner — either Florida or Tennessee — in the title game and likely advance to the College Football Playoff. But although the Tide has overcome a loss to capture three of its four national titles under Saban, the coach wants no slip-ups down the stretch.
“If you put yourself in that situation, you let somebody else decided what your fate is,” Saban said. “If you take care of your business and do things the way you need to do it, then maybe you can control your own destiny in the way you play.
“That's certainly much more the way we would like for it to be from our perspective. We've got lots of tough games we have to play between now and then. We want to take it one game at a time and focus on improving.”
Alabama is on a 22-game winning streak, the longest of Saban's tenure and the third-longest in program history.
“That's something that we take and try and keep going,” Alabama wide receiver ArDarius Stewart said. “Coach talks about it every week, all week, that you can't get complacent and you have to do all the little things right. That's something we take pride in and try to do every week.”
The Tide put up impressive numbers against Mississippi State. Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts became the first quarterback in Alabama history to throw for 300 yards (347) and rush for 100 yards (100) in the same game as he accounted for 447 yards of total offense, third-best in school history.
Stewart became only the sixth player in program history to have three touchdown receptions in one game, and tight end O.J. Howard caught six passes for a season-high 77 yards with four of receptions resulting in first downs.
“We made a lot of explosive plays on offense, and executed in the passing game more efficiently and effectively,” Saban said. “Defensively, we made stops when we needed to when they made plays.”
Meanwhile, Chattanooga was losing for only the second time this season, a 36-28 setback to Wofford that dropped the Mocs five spots to No. 12 in the STATS media poll.
Chattanooga is looking forward to the trip to Tuscaloosa.
“Our guys will be excited to play,” Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. “I think everybody knows this is the best team in the country. Our players know they have tremendous players, and I know they have tremendous coaches, very smart people there.
“Watching film, they're not only athletic, but they do things right in all phases of the game. It's going to be a tough test, and we're looking forward to it.”
Alabama won all 12 meetings, including 49-0 in the last encounter in 2013.