The “S-E-C” chants came as expected, only they echoed through Jerry Jones’ colossal football cathedral slightly earlier than anticipated. The second quarter, to be exact.
Despite losing its leaders on defense and the best college running back we’ve seen in quite some time, Alabama turned to its assembly line. The formula is quite simple, and one your favorite businesses have mastered or at least tried to: When you run out of something great, you replace it with something equally as great or at least close.
It’s the most basic form of elite maintenance, but in college football, it’s never that easy. It takes special recruiting—and even that provides no guarantees—and a coach that can build this new creation each and every year. Nick Saban is that rare architect that makes this all possible.
I’ll admit it; I had USC pegged as my No. 1 team heading into the season, and LSU and Alabama right behind. It seemed only fitting given the offense the Trojans returned and the personnel that last year’s national-championship participants had to replace.
In 60 minutes, however, I have changed my tune. I don’t think much of preseason polls, but I’m also not for major shifting after seeing only four quarters of football. With that said, Alabama is the nation’s No. 1 team—at least right now—and I say this with full consideration that Michigan is probably not one of the 10 best teams in the country.
I had questions about just how well the assembly line would operate given the amount of talent that the Crimson Tide lost, and they answered that call on Saturday night with their 41-14 beat down of Michigan. And really, it wasn't even that close.
The offensive line was as advertised, creating glaring holes for the stable of running backs and giving AJ McCarron ample time on most dropbacks. McCarron was solid, but not spectacular. He’ll be just fine, however, and his confidence (and the coaches’ confidence in him) will grow throughout the year.
True freshman T.J. Yeldon was better than advertised in his debut, and that’s saying quite a bit. He turned heads after his ridiculous spring-game performance and backed that up on college football’s biggest showcase. For the game, Yeldon had 12 touches for 137 yards, and you can tell he’ll be special in the way he carries the ball. Perhaps he already is.
The defense, which we knew would be good, might be the best in the country once again. Out with the likes of Baron, Hightower and Kirkpatrick and in with Mosley (whom you already knew), Jessie Williams, Dee Millner and many, many more. Oh, that assembly line.
The secondary gave up a few big plays, but overall, it swarmed to the ball and looked like a similar force to the version we saw in early January. It doesn’t have the same name power, at least not yet, but it made college football’s ultimate playmaker—and he is that regardless of what you think of his passing—look incredibly average and one-dimensional.
And then there’s Nick Saban, the constant in the assembly line. We were reminded once again why he’s the best coach in the game, and it’s really not up for discussion. He’s got firepower, which is terrifying for the rest of the league.
USC’s offense looked great against Hawaii, LSU handled its business against North Texas, and Oregon’s clearly a threat for the top spot as well. They were all impressive in their openers, but Alabama is once again an immovable force.
It won’t be pretty, but that’s nothing new. This is a formula that you know quite well, and the assembly line is fully operational.
We’ll find out much more about Michigan in the coming weeks and what this loss means, but we learned all we need to know about Alabama on Saturday night. The Tide are the champs, they have reloaded and they will get even better with time.
That's a terrifying thought.