The Alabama Crimson Tide continued tearing through their schedule in pummeling Mississippi State—its toughest 2012 opponent to date—38-7 on Saturday night. An undefeated season and a second national title now seems more of an inevitability than a lofty ideal to strive toward.
Head coach Nick Saban has assembled a phenomenal team once again. Plenty of things jump out about the Tide, but it's important to recall what the team lost particularly on defense from last year's national championship team.
Safety Mark Barron, linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick were all selected in the first 35 picks of the 2012 NFL draft.
That sounds like the Bama defense would be somewhat decimated this season, but instead they have been the most dominant unit in college football.
The Tide allow the fewest points, rushing yards and total yards of offense in the nation. They also rank second against the pass behind only Michigan. That's not a bad job by the younger players filling in. The bunch of talented defensive playmakers includes C.J. Mosley.
In a story by ESPN's Chris Low, the junior linebacker expressed the importance the current defense has put on making their own impact, rather than being daunted by the task of living up to their predecessors.
We did lose a lot of great players, but we also had a lot of players coming back who were hungry. We’re not as good as we were last year in some spots, and in some spots, we’re better. The main thing is that we want to make our own mark. We want to create our own identity, and that’s what we go out there to do every week.
That seems to be what's happening, as the latest AP Poll has Alabama unanimously ranked No. 1. Despite the loss of such strong star power on defense, that side of the ball is leading this version of the Tide toward unprecedented, elite consistency in the polls, as ESPN Stats and Info indicates:
Alabama is No. 1 in the AP football poll for the eighth straight week, the longest streak in school history.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 21, 2012
Not only does it take a semi truck to run through the Alabama front seven, but it's nearly impossible to beat the Tide because of how well the offense takes care of the football.
Quarterback A.J. McCarron has to be considered a legitimate Heisman contender after two more touchdowns in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night despite leaving the game in the third quarter. The junior signal-caller has not thrown one interception all season, while throwing 18 touchdowns, averaging 9.5 yards per attempt and leading the nation in passing efficiency.
The Bulldogs were the top team in the country in terms of turnover margin entering the game with Alabama; they turned it over three times to Alabama's zero. Miss State's Tyler Russell was forced into a pick in the end zone by Robert Lester, just his second interception of the year.
Combine McCarron's staggering efficiency with the two-headed monster backfield of junior Eddie Lacy and freshman T.J. Yeldon, and the Bama offense is among the most balanced in the nation.
For a team that hardly ever gives the ball away and allows so few yards no matter who they're lined up against, how is it possible to beat the Tide? There are four more opponents in line to try to figure that out, most notably sixth-ranked LSU this Saturday in Baton Rouge. The Tigers would love to play spoiler after finishing as national runners-up to the Tide in 2011.
It may be debatable as to whether a repeat national champion would be good for college football, but Saban doesn't seem to care. A humorous exchange between he and ESPN's Mark Schlabach was posted to Schlabach's Twitter account:
I asked Saban if it was good for CFB when ND is good. Reply: "For me, it's good for college football when Alabama is good."— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) October 26, 2012
Like it or not, Saban and his nearly flawless Crimson Tide team are rolling toward another championship. There simply isn't much evidence to the contrary.