Folks, as we stand with just a handful of weeks remaining in the season, it is almost universally agreed upon that the Crimson Tide are the nation's best team. Sure, there are some of the naysayers that believe their team is the best team. Absolutely, there are folks that read box scores and don't understand the difference between LSU pounding the ball and Oregon's approach to rushing.
Let's put aside the petty complaining and operate under the assumption that the Tide will not be removed from their No. 1 perch. We've seen how Alabama plays in the SEC. We know Georgia, like LSU last week, will have to play a perfect game to have a shot to win, and even then, it might not be enough.
But how would the rest of the nation's eligible undefeated ranks stack up against the Tide?
Four teams, all four built very differently. We've got some flash, we've got some grittiness and we've got some defense first. Throw in an emerging superstar, and that rounds out the four teams not named Alabama that are all sitting with unblemished records.
The short answer: Let's stop talking blowout. It likely isn't happening, folks.
Working from the bottom to the top, Louisville is our first team to look at. Would the Tide destroy the Cardinals? There's a high possibility. However, Louisville does have the benefit of playing with a high-quality dual-threat quarterback. Teddy Bridgewater can run when he has to, extends plays, makes great throws and has the ability to make Alabama's defense keep eyes on him escaping the pocket. All it would take is a play or two of Bridgewater buying time for good things to happen.
However, the Crimson Tide would end up being too much for the Cardinals to handle. Alabama has too many bigger, faster, stronger players working as a machine to limit Bridgewater and overpower the Cardinals defense. If you're looking a blowout in the undefeated ranks, a few turnovers by a pressing Louisville team could see this one get out of hand.
We'll take Kansas State as the next team. This year's edition has made some improvements on the defensive side of the ball from the team that got beaten 29-16 by Arkansas a year ago in the Cotton Bowl. It tackles very well, it is disciplined in its assignments, and as Saturday showed us, it is quite opportunistic.
Luckily, the Crimson Tide don't make a habit of giving the ball away. Turnovers are what ultimately sunk Oklahoma in Norman against the Wildcats, and AJ McCarron has been quite safe with the football. That means it'd be up to Collin Klein to put Kansas State over the top.
The Crimson Tide most certainly would not destroy Kansas State; a guy like Klein might even be able to beat Alabama, especially since the Kansas State offensive line is a gritty punch that wants to grind. It may not get the best of Alabama, but it'll damn sure try to move the Tide at the point of attack.
Which brings us to the Oregon Ducks ballclub. Yes, people, we all know about the LSU and the Auburn games.
Instead of merely parroting tired lines of "Oregon just can't handle the SEC," let's talk reality. Oregon's bread is buttered with zone blocking, coming to the second level, allowing running backs to find their own holes and optioning off defensive linemen or edge-rushing linebackers.
In order for that to work, Oregon has to be able to sustain its blocks and leave double-teams to get to the linebackers and control the line of scrimmage. Against Alabama, that's going to be a real problem. LSU's success on the ground came from moving the Tide at the point of attack; Oregon is going to have a problem doing that against the Tide. The good news is this game is not likely to be a blowout either.
Sure, some will point to the way LSU ran away from Oregon a year ago. However, the turnovers and short fields have to be accounted for and controlled for. The Ducks run a tight ship, and while Alabama would disrupt the mesh point and play on Oregon's side of the line of scrimmage, Marcus Mariota, Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas would find a way to have moments of success.
Thus, we wrap up with Notre Dame. The Irish are a team that struggles at times offensively. They're also the one team that comes closest to matching Alabama and LSU where front-seven play is concerned. Due to the premium placed on physicality by both teams, Alabama could find itself in the opposite of a blowout—a dog fight. Out of the four undefeated teams, Notre Dame is the only team with the ability to duplicate LSU's game plan to put the Tide on the ropes.
The Irish also have the ability, like Kansas State, Louisville and Oregon, to use some of the read-option and mobile quarterback play to their advantage while having an extremely talented defense to have their back.
Odds are no, Nick Saban doesn't just walk the dog on any of these teams. They're all quality squads that play sound football. If there was a blowout brewing, perhaps the Cardinals, aided by turnovers, might be the best pick. Alabama is good, and it's damn good, but the Tide still have to play for the title. We can't just give it to them.
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