Can any team stop top-ranked Alabama, who pushed aside visiting Tennessee, 45-10 at sold-out Bryant-Denny Stadium?
When the Crimson Ride rolls they really roll and did last Saturday in a Southeastern Conference clash behind a punishing running attack and a powerful aerial assault. And this says nothing about Alabama’s vaunted defense that has shut out two opponents and allows less than 10 points per contest.
Head Coach Nick Saban and the Tide are seeking their third straight Bowl Championship Series title and it appears No. 2 Oregon, No. 3 Florida State or No. 4 Ohio State will face Alabama for the national title at the Rose Bowl in January.
From the outset undefeated Alabama (8-0) meant business as it scored on four consecutive possessions and led 28-0 with 7:18 left in the second quarter.
Saban prefers a balanced offense and while he’ll allow A.J. McCarron, his field general to throw the football, he also wants a solid ground attack as evidenced by the Tide’s 204 yards against the Volunteers with Kenyan Drake leading the way with 89 yards on 14 rushes.
McCarron began matters with a 54-yard strike to wide receiver Amari Cooper (75 yards on five catches) and less than two minutes having elapsed. The drive took only three plays.
On the Tide’s next series the march covered 83 yards and consumed seven plays before running back T.J. Yeldon (72 yards on 15 carries) dented the end zone from a yard out and 8:44 left.
McCarron’s second scoring toss of 22 yards went to wide receiver Kevin Norwood (game-best 112 yards on six receptions) and capped a 12-play, 65-yard voyage that made it 21-0 with 28 seconds left on the clock.
“All week long they [Tennessee] called us the Red Team and we wanted to go out and show them that we’re Alabama,’’ said McCarron, a senior quarterback who finished with 275 passing yards after connecting on 19 of 27 attempts. ‘’At first I thought he [Norwood] jumped too early and I was going to get mad at him, but he adjusted and made a great catch.”
McCarron was referring to a highlight-reel reception that Norwood executed near the end zone as he was falling backward.
Yeldon’s one-yard blast put Alabama (479 total net yards) ahead 28-0 and closed a nine-play, 81-yard excursion.
It actually got worse for Tennessee (322 total yards) when quarterback Justin Worley (eight of 15 for 120 yards with two picks), who entered the fray with an injured right thumb was intercepted by Landon Collins who scooted 89 yards for a touchdown that made it 35-0 as 12 seconds remained before the half.
Tennessee’s Michael Palardy broke the spell with a 37-yard field goal and 12:53 left in the third quarter, but Yeldon’s one-yard stroll with 2:55 showing in the same quarter made it 42-3 and ended a drive that gobbled up 99 yards and took nine plays.
Running back Rajion Neal (team-best 70 yards on 13 carries) was able to get some traction and scored from three yards out as the Volunteers (4-4) came within 42-10 and just under 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter, but Alabama’s backup place kicker Adam Griffith rifled home a 20-yard field goal as 6:50 remained and made it a 35-point advantage.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.