CFB Roundup: Alabama — like it or not — is back in charge

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Derrick Henry and Alabama were too much for LSU — and are too much for the playoff discussion to go on without. (AP/John Bazemore)

They’re the New England Patriots. Or, if you prefer, the New York Yankees. Or, heck, the Blackhawks or the Jordan Bulls. Even better, they’re Duke basketball.

This is a long way of saying the Alabama Crimson Tide are the have-it-all bully much of the sporting world prefers to root against. Or at least has gotten sick and tired of.

We love our underdogs, and Alabama is no underdog. Not after Saturday’s 30-16 bludgeoning of LSU, the No. 2 team in last week’s College Football Playoff rankings. The fourth-ranked Tide weren’t exactly celebrated for being so strong in the playoff mix despite entering this contest with a defeat on their record, but who’s going to argue against their worthiness now?

Who would dare?

Forget that Alabama suffered an earlier defeat to Ole Miss, which later lost at Memphis, which on Saturday was blown out at home by Navy. Yes, it’s kind of weird. No, it’s not all that compelling.

Compelling is the manner in which the Tide outgained LSU 434-182. Compelling is holding LSU to 46 offensive plays. Compelling is swallowing up Heisman Trophy leader Leonard Fournette, limiting the running back to 31 yards on 19 carries.

There was much talk entering this game about LSU being the most physical team in college football. Alabama responded by dialing up its most impressive physical performance since the destruction of Notre Dame in the national championship game to end the 2012 season.

Fournette is a spectacular running back. Alabama has one of its own in Derrick Henry, who carried — holy heck — 38 times for 210 yards and three touchdowns.

Up front on the lines of scrimmage — both sides of the ball — this wasn’t even a fair fight.

“We played with a lot of toughness,” said Tide coach Nick Saban, “and we were physical today. And I think that was the difference in the game.”

In Week 10, unbeaten teams dropped like flies. There was LSU, of course. There was No. 8 TCU, which was hammered 49-29 at fellow unbeaten and 14th-ranked Oklahoma State. There was the aforementioned Memphis, which was utterly embarrassed in a 45-20 loss to Navy.

There also was No. 7 Michigan State, which fell 39-38 at Nebraska in the most controversial outcome of Week 10. Nutshell: The Spartans were almost unimaginably screwed by the refs on the Huskers’ winning drive in the waning moments.

But let’s not miss the point: None of those previously unblemished teams was more deserving of inclusion in the playoff than Alabama. Head-to-head, they’d probably have had no chance to topple the Tide.

A sideline reporter asked Henry what he’d proved in regard to himself vs. Fournette, and the answer was Alabama to the core:

“I thought our offense proved something.”

This is a team — a program — that always has its act together. The sporting world doesn’t have to love it, but there’s no getting around it.

Barring a shocking development, the Tide will win the SEC and return to the playoff — maybe at the expense of an unbeaten team. No one outside of Roll Tide Nation will love that. It’ll just be too bad.


Week: No. 1 Clemson 23, No. 16 Florida State 13. Two snaps into the game, Dalvin Cook was off and sprinting 75 yards up the gut for a 7-0 FSU lead. It felt a little bit like here-we-go-again, with the age-old giants of the ACC threatening to shred Clemson’s dreams yet again.


The Tigers (9-0) proved themselves from there, outgaining the Seminoles 512-286 the rest of the way behind tremendous play from quarterback Deshaun Watson and a wicked defense. Division crown: Check. Beeline for the playoff: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But it felt so good.

“We won the Kentucky Derby tonight,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “But we want to win the Triple Crown.”

Week: Arkansas 53, No. 18 Ole Miss 52 (OT). Good lord, why can’t every game be like this one? We’ll just fast-forward to overtime — skipping a whole heck of a lot — when the Razorbacks (5-4) converted a fourth-and-25 with an insane blind lateral from tight end Hunter Henry to whoever might corral it. Alex Collins did and ran for a 31-yard gain.

Bret Bielema elected to go for two, but quartarback Brandon Allen was sacked. Hello? Facemask. Allen — a “gladiator,” Bielema called him — ran it in on the next play, adding to his six-touchdown-pass brilliance. So much for the Rebels (7-3) winning the SEC West.

Weak: No. 10 Florida 9, Vanderbilt 7. No offense, Gators (8-1), but we’re still holding our nose. The Commodores (3-6) didn’t beat you, but you’re SEC East champs. The league title game will be just a tad more difficult.


Marquise Williams, QB, North Carolina: Is there a better way to start a big game than an 89-yard flea-flicker for a touchdown? Williams threw for 404 yards and three TDs and ran for a score — ahem, in the first half — as the Tar Heels (8-1) blasted Duke (6-3) 66-31. He finished with 494 yards passing and five total TDs.

James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State: Man alive, this is one hot receiver — coming off a 200-yard, two-touchdown game a week earlier, Washington caught five balls for 184 yards and three scores as the No. 14 Cowboys (9-0) upset No. 8 TCU (8-1) in Stillwater.

DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame: Irish fans know how tough a nut to crack Pittsburgh has been in this series. Kizer came up huge, throwing for five touchdowns and adding a score on the ground as his fifth-ranked team moved to 8-1 by beating the Panthers (6-3) on the road.


Up: No. 14 Oklahoma State. We can do away with that ranking now — the Pokes better be in the playoff committee’s next top 10. Did we mention they get both Baylor and Oklahoma in Stillwater? This is the team to watch.

Flat: No. 3 Ohio State. The Buckeyes (9-0) certainly got the job done in a 28-14 victory over Minnesota (4-5), but it went relatively unnoticed on a Saturday filled with much bigger matchups.

Down and out: No. 13 Memphis. So much for this Cinderella story — the Tigers weren’t just handed their first loss, they were dominated by Navy (7-1) 45-20 on their home field. Maybe next year. Probably never.


• Let’s put this on everyone’s radar right now: North Carolina is the team with the best shot to knock off Clemson. The Tar Heels have won eight in a row and clearly are the class of the ACC Coastal, and the league title game will be in Charlotte. It would be a huge story, but it isn’t all that far-fetched.

• Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville had a bumbling performance in a loss at Houston, which included a personal foul — yes, on him — on a fourth-and-1. Some coaches simply couldn’t live that down, like ever. We’re thinking of you, Tim Beckman.

• Speaking of Illinois — wow, a 48-14 win at Purdue? Just like that, the Illini went from looking like they wouldn’t win another game (think: 39-0 loss at Penn State) to having a real shot to return to a bowl game. Kind of impressive, you know?

Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.


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