TUSCALOOSA — Can anybody beat Alabama?
Not now. Not today.
The Crimson Tide hammered another undermanned opponent Saturday, crushing poor Florida Atlantic 40-7.
So far this season, it hasn’t mattered if the opponent is a traditional power such as Michigan or a bottom feeder like Florida Atlantic. The Crimson Tide has beaten them all so thoroughly, it’s like the old Bear Bryant days when fans would show up at the stadium not questioning whether Alabama would win but by how much.
The computer rankings mathematician Jeff Sagarin does for USA Today had Alabama’s rating so high this week, only four other teams in the BCS era (1998 to now) have posted a better one. The BCS, in one of its silliest decisions, includes Sagarin only because he is willing to develop a second set of rankings that doesn’t include margin of victory. He calls those rankings “politically correct.”
Still, no matter who figures it or how, Alabama is by far the best team in the country today and completely deserving of its No. 1 ranking in the national polls.
But what about a month from now? Or two months from now? Or Jan. 7, 2013, in Miami?
Florida Atlantic defensive end Cory Henry caught plenty of grief this week for the laughable statement that his Owls had an edge in speed over the Tide. But he was correct when he said this about Alabama: “They’re good and everything, but they can be beat, too.”
But Saban agrees with Henry.
This is why Saban has pushed his team to keep improving and moving forward, no matter the results. This is why he was pleased with Saturday’s game. He would’ve liked to clean up some of the mistakes, but he drew satisfaction from the effort and intensity he saw.
He even appreciated his defense for its effort on that one late FAU touchdown drive. Alabama had a bunch of reserves on the field at the time, including five true freshmen, and they played hard, although not always well.
Saban has won three national titles and realizes every champion in the 35 years or so has one thing in common — they all won the last game.
That’s the goal. That’s it. You make the championship game and win it. It doesn’t matter if you beat Florida Atlantic by two points or 33 or 133. If you have gotten better, then what does the margin of victory matter?
In 2003, Oklahoma won its first 12 games by a combined 422 points. None of the Sooners’ seven national champions can match that. But in the last game, Oklahoma lost — to Saban’s LSU squad, which gave the coach his first national title.
This is why Saban yells in practice. This is why Saban berated reporters for lacking respect two weeks ago for poor, unappreciated Western Kentucky. This is why he doesn’t seem to enjoy dominating teams in September all that much. And this man loves “dominate” so much, it must’ve been his third word as a child behind “Mama” and “Dada.”
Every move he made Saturday was not only to win this particular game but to win the last one. Saban always has made that his goal, and on Saturday, he saw his players continue to adopt the same stance.
At the celebration at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Jan. 16, 2010, for Alabama’s first national title under Saban, he said, “I want everybody to know — this is not the end, this is the beginning.”
Beating Michigan, Western Kentucky, Arkansas and Florida Atlantic senseless is not the end, but the beginning. And Alabama’s players appear to realize that better now than they have all season.