It’s the matchup that's been in the making for years—like two heavyweight prizefighters unable to reach an agreement despite the public’s vocal push—and on Saturday, both Alabama and Oregon gave fans a taste of "what if" yet again.
That's no knock on Texas A&M, which was absolutely fabulous in its loss to Alabama. In fact, at one point on Saturday afternoon, Alabama and Oregon were down a collective 21-0 to A&M and Tennessee.
At almost the same moment, however, both teams hit that familiar extra gear.
Manziel was masterful on the afternoon—outside of two key interceptions—finishing with a staggering 562 yards of total offense. But it was Alabama’s offense that took over the game in the second quarter, even opening it up a bit with a flea-flicker that helped this surge.
AJ McCarron didn’t post the video-game numbers that Manziel did, but his 334 passing yards and four touchdowns were monstrous as well. The Alabama offense looked much improved after a shaky Week 1 performance, and the running backs averaged 6.3 yards per carry.
That’s more like it.
It was tense, despite the feeling of a blowout brewing in the third quarter, but the Crimson Tide eventually overpowered the Aggies in their own building. Saban withstood Manziel’s best punches, including this freakish first down on a play that will be remembered for quite some time.
There were a flurry of these Manziel moments, but Alabama punched back, backing up its No. 1 ranking in the highly anticipated game with a 49-42 victory.
Hundreds of miles away, Oregon gave up a quick “uh-oh” touchdown to Tennessee early on in its own building. That was the only “uh-oh” of the day, and really, there was no need to fret.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota went absolutely berserk, finishing up with 456 yards passing—a career high—and five touchdowns (one rushing). He eclipsed his original high for a game at the start of the third quarter, and the Ducks had to hit the brakes.
The loss of Chip Kelly? No big deal, at least not yet. Oregon has scored at least 59 points in all three games (184 points total in three games), and the Ducks manhandled Tennessee 59-14.
And so the teams that have grown comfortable at the top of the polls will stay exactly where they are, Nos. 1 and 2. If the season were to end today—and thank goodness it won’t, because this is all far too much fun—they would meet in the final BCS National Championship Game.
What a fitting matchup it would be.
Of course, it’s important to highlight that we’re only in Week 3. There is ample football to be played with tough opponents on the horizon, and it’s not that easy, despite how easy these two teams make it look at times.
Oregon’s toughest opponent is still to come, as a Nov. 7 date at Stanford will have a dramatic impact on the Pac-12 and national picture. The Ducks will also play at Washington and at home against UCLA, a team that looks incredibly dangerous.
Alabama still must face Ole Miss and LSU—teams with incredibly high ceilings—although both of these games will be played at home. And if the plan for this dream matchup somehow follows the undefeated blueprint, each team will have to emerge victorious from its conference championship game.
As we’ve seen in the past few seasons, however, things rarely sort themselves out this smoothly. There’s a long way to go, and each Saturday presents its own unexpected oddities.
But the possibility of the dream matchup, the one that has been elusive for so long, is real again, and it was on display Saturday afternoon.