‘Bama takes care of business like no other team

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, November 29, 2008

It was almost anticlimactic. After six years of losing to their in-state rivals, after six years of frustration, after never having defeated Auburn in the stadium that bears the name of one of the most recognized figures in the history of college football, after coaching changes and NCAA sanctions—after all that, their was no last second field goal or a goal line stand to win the game.

Alabama simply dominated Saturday’s Iron Bowl. Alabama played well, for sure, but everything that could have gone the hosts’ way did (backup quarterback Greg McElroy threw a 34-yard touchdown strike to Marquis Maze with less than three minutes to go in the game, for example). Auburn, meanwhile, did not play well, and the 36-point margin of victory is the final slap in the face in a disappointing season. Auburn’s streak, the longest the Tigers have ever put together and the second longest in the history of the series, came to an end at Bryant-Denny Stadium with a thud, not with a blast of fireworks or anything else dramatic.

But, really, the Crimson Tide’s win was a microcosm of its season. Alabama came into the game 11-0 and with a No. 1 BCS ranking while Auburn was sulking at 5-6 in the same season it was a popular choice to win the Southeastern Conference’s Western Division, but many of the things ‘Bama coach Nick Saban calls “external factors” seemed to favor the visitors.

There was the confidence that comes with a team full of players that had never lost to their rivals, and there was the overwhelming expectation from Tide fans that the streak would finally end. Not to mention Alabama was playing to remain in the national title hunt and has an SEC Champion­ship Game with Florida looming this week.

Like they have all year, though, the Alabama players were able to focus on the task at hand instead of what might happen in the future. That’s why Alabama is the only remaining unbeaten team that plays in a BCS conference. That’s why Alabama has a chance to win a national championship.

Of course, no one but ‘Bama fans expect that to happen. Florida is the country’s best team, the experts agree, and an Alabama team that features too few seniors, too many freshmen and an overall lack of talent compared to the other top teams would be a decided underdog in a potential national championship contest with whoever emerges from the Big 12 logjam.

All that mattered Saturday was Auburn, and the Tide, like it has done 11 other time this year, took care of business. Two more games await, and Alabama only needs to keep on keeping on.