As Missouri coach Gary Pinkel watched video of Alabama to prepare for the Crimson Tide's visit to Columbia last Saturday, a feeling of hopelessness set in. Pinkel searched each frame for flaws the Tigers could exploit. Like the five coaches before him who had gotten ready to face unbeaten Alabama this season, he found none. "They are one of the best teams I've seen since I've been coaching," Pinkel says. "They're a team that doesn't really have any weaknesses."
On Saturday, Pinkel saw Alabama's might live and in person: The Tide rolled to a 28--0 second-quarter lead and romped 42--10—an outcome that actually lowered its average margin of victory to 33.0 points. The spread could be far greater, but coach Nick Saban typically takes his foot off the gas by the fourth quarter.
Consider how it feels to play Alabama. An opposing middle linebacker might first encounter center Barrett Jones or guard Chance Warmack, possibly the best players in America at their positions. And even if he sheds their blocks and sets his sights on the ball carrier, the unfortunate 'backer might get run over by 220-pound tailback Eddie Lacy, who gains 6.0 yards per carry, or juked by 216-pound T.J. Yeldon, a freshman who averages 6.4 yards.
On the other side of the ball, an opposing center must identify where the pressure will come from in 'Bama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart's suffocating 3--4 scheme. Where is outside linebacker Xzavier Dickson lining up? What about outside linebacker Adrian Hubbard? Are two linebackers blitzing? Or will it be a safety this time? After the center makes his line calls and settles over the ball, he'll see he's inches from the face mask of nosetackle Jesse Williams, a 6'4", 320-pound Australian who bench-presses 600 pounds and earlier this month had the phrase FEAR IS A LIAR inked on the right side of his Mohawk-adorned skull.
Lording over this symphony of pain is Saban, who has never seen a 33-point win he couldn't criticize. The coach has taught his players to focus inward instead of on opponents who offer little resistance: Alabama competes against its own standard of excellence. Earlier this month Jones said of the offense, "It's not that we're playing bad. But we know we're capable of more than what we've put up so far."
That's a scary thought for the rest of the SEC—and, if the Tide keeps rolling, whichever elite team it faces in the BCS title game. Can anyone beat 'Bama? Send in the candidates.