Alabama paving road to repeat BCS title
No road to a national championship is easy. Twists, turns and unexpected bumps are always a part of the journey.
But some paths turn out to be smoother than others. And entering week eight, Alabama looks to be on the Autobahn.
During the preseason, few experts had an SEC team in the BCS Championship Game for one simple reason: Everyone thought the conference was too tough. The general consensus was that SEC teams would beat up on each other until everybody had a loss or two. That would open the door for a sleeper like USC or Florida State.
Of course those predictions didn't make it out of September. Now, with Halloween on the horizon, the clearest road to Miami and the championship appears to go through Tuscaloosa.
That is because the rest of the teams in the SEC are, indeed, whacking each other. Florida knocked LSU off the undefeated pile, and then LSU sent Steve Spurrier and his South Carolina squad home licking their wounds.
Those same Gamecocks head to Gainesville on Saturday to play the Gators in a game that will probably determine who goes to Atlanta representing the East in the conference championship. While LSU travels to Texas A&M, another tough road game for the underachieving Tigers.
And how does the rest of Alabama's year look?
They travel to Tennessee this week for a game where they will be heavily favored against a Vols team that will most likely play without their leading rusher, Rajion Neal, who is out with an ankle injury.
Then the Tide have Mississippi State at home before the big showdown with LSU in Baton Rouge. Get through those games unscathed, and they finish with the Aggies, Western Carolina, and the Iron Bowl against an Auburn team that is struggling to near panic proportions.
For anyone else this schedule would look like anything but smooth sailing. Mississippi State is undefeated and ranked 15th in the country, a spot they should maintain or perhaps improve upon if they can beat Middle Tennessee this week.
But Alabama is more talented and better coached than every other team on their schedule. So far they are holding opponents to an average of 7.5 points a game and only 181.2 total yards of offense. Both those are nation-leading stats. They're also leading in rushing yards allowed, giving up only 55.3 yards on the ground against teams that have run the ball pretty well when they weren't playing the Tide.
On the other side of the ball, Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon are averaging 4.9 and 5.8 yards per carry respectively. That is a one-two rushing punch that very few teams can handle. And all this is before you consider that quarterback A.J. McCarron is completing 66 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception this year.
"It's been a hard-working group," Saban said. "They've had a really good attitude about what they want to try to do. I still think there are a lot of areas that we need to improve on."
And that last sentence, more than any other, is the reason that Alabama appears to throttling up for a BCS repeat.
No matter how well they play – and the Tide's average margin of victory is 32.8 points – Saban will never be satisfied. It's not in his nature. He will stay after his players and his assistant coaches, urging them to continually improve until the last whistle blows.
And at this rate, that last whistle could well come in Miami the night of Jan. 7, 2013.