Every college football season produces one weekend of mayhem that sets the polls ablaze, and after last weekend’s SEC-themed inferno, one team stands alone as the flag-bearer for the nation’s toughest and most proud conference—No. 1 Alabama.
Sure, the SEC has another contender—unbeaten and fifth-ranked Missouri—who is right on the cusp of making some noise in the national title race. Aside from Mizzou and Nick Saban’s club, No. 11 Auburn is the only other SEC team who has less than two losses.
While Missouri is a feel-good story inside the league similar to how fellow Big 12 import Texas A&M was last season, expecting them to run the table—especially without the services of injured quarterback James Franklin—seems highly unlikely.
It’s become increasingly clear that Alabama is the only school that has a realistic chance of extending the SEC’s national title streak to eight.
And maybe that’s the way it should be.
After all, the Tide have three of those titles in the streak, and they are trying to do what teams such as USC (in 2005) and Nebraska (in 1996) failed to do in previous decades—win three consecutive national titles.
It’s only fitting that Saban has guided the Tide to be in this position, in part because of their ability to rise above the pitfalls that have doomed the league’s other contenders.
Injuries have plagued preseason contenders such as Florida and Georgia. Meanwhile, powers such as LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina faltered due to inconsistent and schizophrenic play.
That’s not to say that Alabama was immune to similar issues. There were times that both the offense (against Virginia Tech and Colorado State) and defense (against Texas A&M) looked less than dominant. The Tide have dealt with injuries such as the season-ending torn ACL suffered by safety Vinnie Sunseri in last weekend’s 52-0 win over Arkansas.
There’s been the swirl of controversy surrounding the Yahoo Sports article citing former Tide lineman D.J. Fluker receiving improper benefits. Also, figure in suspensions to running back Kenyan Drake and defensive backs Geno Smith and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and Saban’s had as much clutter to deal with as any other coach in the country.
But none of those coaches have the albatross of expectations that come with trying to win a fourth national title in five years.
While there’s been plenty of upheaval away from the field, the Tide survived a shootout win over Texas A&M in Week 3 and haven’t looked back since.
If the four September games produced doubt that this outfit was vulnerable, an October that has resulted in the Tide winning its three games by a combined score of 145-10 has seemingly restored order.
Considering the SEC’s struggles to dominate the top half of the polls as they were able to in years past, the debate will rage on nationally as to whether the league is finally ready to surrender the chokehold it’s had over the sport for nearly a decade.
However, despite the SEC’s perceived struggles, Alabama appears to be getting stronger—and that may be all the SEC needs to keep the crystal football streak alive.