From SI.COM, November 26, 2011
FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS FOR ANYONE WHO MAY BE SUFFERING from a case of SEC fatigue: An SEC team is finally going to lose in the BCS title game. Now for the bad news: An SEC team is going to win the BCS title game. Barring a revolt from voters in the Coaches' and Harris polls, Alabama rendered the final weekend before bowl selection meaningless by whipping Auburn in the Iron Bowl. The Crimson Tide, whose only loss this season came in overtime against LSU, set the (re)matchup in the BCS championship game by suffocating Auburn to the tune of 34 yards and two first downs through the first three quarters.
"We really want that next shot now," Alabama offensive tackle Barrett Jones said. "We hope what we did was enough."
The Tide played on Saturday as it has all season. The defense dominated, and the offense mostly stuck to the basics. Trent Richardson ran for 203 yards on 27 carries, and quarterback AJ McCarron found tight end Brad Smelley six times. Alabama got fancy once, when McCarron handed off to Richardson, who pitched back to McCarron, who threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Bell for the Tide's first touchdown.
The Tigers' inexperience was exposed by Alabama's muscle. It also didn't help Auburn that its rivals had spent a year stewing over last season's Iron Bowl meltdown when the Tigers, en route to a national title, roared back from a 24--0 deficit for a 28--27 win. More than a few eyebrows went up Saturday when the Tide headed to the locker room with the same halftime lead (24--7) as a year ago. "We noticed that," Jones said. But Cam Newton was nowhere to be found.
Playing Auburn probably helped Alabama to focus. Against anyone else the Tide might have let the outside noise of postseason prognostication distract them. Against Auburn nothing else mattered. "You lose this one, you've got to hear it for 365 days," Alabama defensive end Damion Square said. "Now we can celebrate for 365 days."
The Tide should also be able to celebrate in eight days, when the BCS matchups are set. Four of six computer polls prefer Oklahoma State to Alabama, but the human voters, which ranked the Cowboys No. 6 in each of their polls, apparently consider BCS title contenders the way Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart judged obscenity: They know them when they see them.
For example, your eyeballs did not deceive you on Saturday. The Tigers, who entered the day averaging 25.2 points and 345.3 yards, could not move the ball on the Crimson Tide until coach Nick Saban began sprinkling in second-teamers in the fourth quarter. Through three quarters, Auburn averaged fewer than 1.5 yards a play. Its points came on a fumble recovery in the end zone following a sack and an 83-yard kickoff return. The Tigers' offense, like all the others that played Alabama this year, could do next to nothing.
"We don't know how it's all going to play out, but we put on a show today," Smelley said. "I feel like the odds are in our favor."