Alabama still heads above challengers in NCAA football

Sep 18, 2012 3:02 AM

Three short weeks of the college football season have passed and we are seeing true separation already. For those of us who like the element of surprise, rooting for the underdog, pulling for the little guy or whatever your favorite cliche might be, you could be in for a long season. 

Because Alabama is way better than anyone else.

Half of Nick Saban’s starters from last year’s squad had graduated (Graduated isn’t the right word. Let’s say “no longer have any eligibility remaining.”) leaving the Crimson Tide vulnerable in their quest for a championship repeat.

As a handicapper I had them ranked third behind LSU and USC coming into the season. In my mind 11 new starters would create at least a speed bump on their road to another Coaches Trophy. (That’s the name of that crystal football. I looked it up.)

Two of Alabama’s toughest opponents, Michigan and Arkansas, were in these first three weeks. It was not unreasonable to assume at least one of those traditional powerhouses would test a young team, possibly even provide us with an upset.

Instead, Bama cruised over Michigan 41-14, crushed Western Kentucky 35-0, then humiliated Arkansas 52-0. Shutting out the Razorbacks at home is no easy feat. It hadn’t been done since 1966. 

The Arkansas game was so bad the toughest guy on the team looked to be injured All-SEC quarterback Tyler Wilson who displayed more fight in the post-game presser than anyone on Arkansas showed on the field.

I try to read as many of the newspapers from around the country as I can. The southern sports writers love the fact that the Tide couldn’t even win their division but still managed to come away with a national championship. They rub that SEC stuff in your face with a contemptuous, arrogant snicker waiting for your feeble argument they can shoot down easier than Ted Nugent hunting at a petting zoo.

Speaking of arrogance, I know Nick Saban can coach, but how does he get these players? Don’t any of their parents have TVs? The man comes across as having all the charm of a constipated rottweiler. 

Even after multiple national championships I can’t remember seeing him smile. He openly bullies the press and his players. I’m sure he’s just a peach in staff meetings. But somehow he gets guys to play hard, execute and most importantly sign a letter of intent.

Right now Bama’s offense is mostly pedestrian. They rank 69th in total offense, but you get the feeling they could produce when necessary. Saban’s teams have always been built around defense and this one is no different. 

While spread offenses, shotguns and pistols are the rule in college football, the Tide lines their quarterback under center and runs an offense Vince Lombardi would recognize. What works for Oregon and West Virginia isn’t necessary at Alabama.

NCAA statistics can be deceiving, particularly this early in the season. Florida State leads most defensive categories but their toughest opponent has been Wake Forest after cream puffs Murray State and Savannah State. Still, Bama ranks in the top 10 in every significant defensive statistic. I have my own set of stats as do most handicappers. By any reasonable discernment, Alabama sports the best defense in the country.

Most people think LSU has the best chance of upsetting Alabama this season. At this point that’s true. The Tigers are ranked second by most handicappers as well as second in the polls. They also might have the best defensive line in the country. Les Miles pulls out more head scratching victories than any leader since Woody Allen’s character in Bananas. But they will be an underdog, even in Baton Rouge. 

As a quick aside, it’s a bit quirky but if you go strictly by resume, LSU had better credentials than Alabama last year. Before losing to them in the BCS championship game, LSU had beaten Alabama on their home field. LSU also defeated Arkansas, West Virginia and Oregon.

That means LSU beat the winners of the Cotton Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the Rose Bowl and the national champion. That’s one heck of a resume.

There is a long way to go in this season, but it’s going to take some doing to get past this Alabama juggernaught. Keep in mind we are talking about kids who can’t legally drink yet. If you have your own kids, like I do, you know there is a multitude of variables that throw a plan off kilter. 

Upsets happen, but right now Saban is a substantial favorite to lift that crystal football one more time.

Noteworthy

• Hawaii led Lamar 52-0 after scoring a fourth quarter touchdown. Lamar was paid to come and get their whooping like most lower division teams are forced to do in the amateur sports utopia created by the NCAA. UH head coach Norm Chow wasn’t going to be happy after kicking the extra point and securing a 53-0 lead over a weak opponent. 

Instead he lined up his offense to go for a two point conversion. Lo and behold, the play was stopped by Lamar who intercepted the pass and returned it for two points of their own. There went Hawaii’s shutout as the Warriors had to settle for a 52-2 victory.

The football gods don’t like it such displays of poor sportsmanship. Remember that when Hawaii receives their own whoopings this season, because they are coming.

• Long-time Nevada bookmaker Don Dibacco passed away last week. If Lou Costello and Danny DeVito had a test tube baby together, it would come out like Don. He was one of the funniest guys I ever met. Sarcastic wit is an overused description but Don had it spades. 

Dibacco would pull it out in the slow hours of the day or in the teeth of battle. He never failed to bring a laugh. You will be missed, my friend. RIP.

Chris Andrews has over 30 years of experience as a bookmaker in Nevada. You can follow him on Twitter@AndrewsSports. Chris has a dedicated thread in the Pregame.com forums, answering your questions and more.

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