It was dubbed the most anticipated college football game of the season. The narrative of a College Football Playoff-ready Texas A&M invading Tuscaloosa to truly see how strong its armor was against the impenetrable fortress of Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama held up its end of the bargain. The Crimson Tide are undefeated, ranked No. 1 in the country and outside of a stumble against Texas, has looked dominant this season with last week’s 23-point road win against Arkansas sending the Razorbacks out of the national rankings.
Texas A&M’s half of the main-event prize fight never showed up. The Aggies have done the bare minimum to look impressive or lost in the four weeks since a season-opening victory over FCS-level Sam Houston State. They’re not ranked. They’re out of the discussion for the New Year’s Six. A loss gives them a .500 record for the second time this season. And now A&M limps in to face Alabama with no one thinking it can win for good reason.
As power shifts in the Southeastern Conference have surrounded Alabama relinquishing control and quickly getting it back — look at Joe Burrow-led LSU winning a title, followed up by a dominant Crimson Tide team winning a championship — Jimbo Fisher’s squad was thought to have a shot at knocking Alabama off its crown. Yes, Georgia is the defending national champion. Yet, the Bulldogs did go 1-1 during the season against Alabama. I wouldn’t call beating the national champions a month before Georgia lifted the crown abdicating a power position.
Especially after last weekend, when Georgia was lucky to not be defeated by Missouri despite being a more-than-four-touchdown favorite, the mountaintop of the best conference in America belongs to Alabama. It’s predictable, boring, and loathsome to see Nick Saban keep winning and always have one hand on an SEC Championship. I’d love to see someone take the Crimson Tide down to add more parity to college football. There are also multiple reasons why Alabama has become so dominant, most boiling down to its better at almost everything than almost everyone almost every day. Saban’s pick of the litter from recruiting and the transfer portal ensures the process has the best chance to continue.
As A&M’s chance fades, little paths to CFP resistance exist for the Crimson Tide outside of Georgia. Ole Miss won’t get it done, and no one else in the SEC West is worth mentioning. The SEC East’s crew of great, not amazing, teams to challenge Georgia has been one of the most underrated stories in college football over the past few years. As the Bulldogs dominated Michigan in the national semifinals, the only team to keep a game against Georgia close — outside of Alabama — was Kentucky, and the Wildcats did it between the hedges. In 2018, a Kentucky win would’ve sent it to the SEC Championship game and not the Bulldogs.
The biggest challenger in the SEC East this season is Tennessee. I understand the hesitation in giving that distinction to those in Knoxville, but denying it disregards the facts. Under coach Josh Heupel, who’s proven himself as an offensive guru throughout his career, has proved to unleash the best of Tennessee’s offense. It destroyed Ball State and Akron, as it should, and then the Volunteers did enough defensively to hold off Pittsburgh and Florida. The Vols began their murderer’s row of six opponents two weeks ago with that five-point win over the Gators. Today is a road game against LSU, which will be a great preview of how legitimate Tennessee’s threat level is. And who do the Vols play next week? Alabama. It’s hard to pick Tennessee to win that matchup even if it looks strong against LSU this weekend.
It’s been a gripe among Tennessee fans for years with how the SEC schedules games. The Vols are the only SEC East team under the current model that must play Alabama every year. UT hasn’t beaten Saban’s Alabama, having last taken down the Crimson Tide in 2006 (under Mike Shula). That’s 15 wins in a row for Alabama over the Vols. And now that gripe may turn into the biggest game Tennessee has played in Knoxville since the turn of the century. Imagine the opportunity the Volunteers would have to welcome the Crimson Tide into their 100,000-plus-seat stadium. It’s a silver-platter chance for Alabama’s hold on the SEC to splinter. Or it could be another reminder of how mighty Alabama is.