Tua

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (University of Alabama Sports Information)

 

Older fans will remember this. Back in the old days, when John Vaught was the Ole Miss football coach and the Rebels were ranked in the Top 10 nearly every year, the Rebels would play an annual game with Chattanooga.

It was almost like a scrimmage except they charged admission. Ole Miss always scored a lot of points. Chattanooga hardly ever scored at all.

And this is what it has come to in 2018: Everybody else is like Alabama’s Chattanooga.

Alabama has outscored the opposition by 36 points per game this season, despite the fact starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has watched every fourth quarter from the sidelines.

This has led to many questions, including:

• Is this Alabama team the best college football team ever?

• Can anyone possibly beat the Crimson Tide?

• Is Nick Saban the best college football coach ever?

I’ll take a stab at all three. This Bama team surely is the best college team these eyes have seen. Clemson, if it plays well and Bama doesn’t, would have a shot at beating the Crimson Tide. Yes, Saban, all things considered, has become the best college coach ever. He gets the best players. He coaches them better than anyone else.

Last Saturday, Mississippi State played Alabama as well and as hard as anyone has all season. Final score: Bama 24, State 0. That came one week after Alabama slapped around LSU 29-0 in Baton Rouge.

That’s two straight shutouts of two nationally ranked teams. All season long, Alabama’s offense has been dominant. Now, the defense is, too.

And, yes, I know, State really did score a touchdown. Kylin Hill scored it on a perfectly executed 11-yard screen pass from Nick Fitzgerald. State receiver Dedrick Thomas was called for a phantom block in the back against Bama defensive back Shyheim Carter, which wasn’t going to affect the play anyway.

It was an atrocious call, just ridiculous.

You could almost imagine the conversation that followed:

Dedrick Thomas: “But ref I didn’t touch him...”

Official: “Yeah, but you almost did.”

But here’s the deal: It wasn’t going to change the general tone of the game. Alabama was just better. State’s defensive front, one of the best in college football, kept the Bulldogs in the game. Alabama is that good at every position on the field. Quarterback, check. Running backs, check. Receivers, check. Offensive line, check. Defensive front, check. Linebackers, check. Secondary, check.

With most really good college football teams, you have a few players who will be big enough, strong enough, fast enough and good enough to play on Sundays. Alabama has a roster filled with future pros. At Bama, there are future pros playing behind future pros.

This week, Alabama, which has outscored its opponents 486 to 127, plays The Citadel. Among Citadel’s six losses was a 29-28 defeat to Chattanooga, which is kind of where this column started.

I don’t know how Saban will get his team ready to play at a high level this week — not that they necessarily need to be at top level to trounce Citadel.

But Saban probably will. Alabama seems to play at a high level every week.

After that, it’s Auburn in the Iron Bowl and then Georgia in the SEC Championship game. And then it’s on to the playoffs where, if I am right, Alabama eventually will play Clemson and maybe — just maybe — Tua Tagovailoa will be needed in the fourth quarter.

Email syndicated columnist Rick Cleveland at rcleveland@mississippitoday.org.

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