ATHENS, Ga. -- Hedges to hedges, dust to dust.
We gather here tonight to pay our respects to the national championship hopes of the Georgia Bulldogs. Please gather 'round the gravesite. The Bulldogs' national title dreams will be interred at the 50-yard line, near the spot where, in tonight's first quarter, 365-pound Alabama nose tackle
Who knew Alabama strength coach
Which brings us to this reading from Alabama 41-30.
With death comes rebirth. Alabama fans, wearing angelic white Saturday, now can dream anew of the national title they consider their birthright. The No. 1 spot in the polls is up for grabs thanks to USC's loss at Oregon State on Thursday. The eighth-ranked Tide booted Georgia from No. 3. Florida will vacate No. 4 after losing at home to Ole Miss on Saturday. Some voters doubtless will consider Alabama's 31-0 halftime lead, its 129-50 rushing advantage Saturday, two wins against top-10 teams and the fact that the Tide have not trailed for a solitary second all season and vote 'Bama No. 1. That will not please Saban, who does not want to get his team to get ahead of itself. Too fresh are the memories of last year's 6-2 start that preceded a four-game losing streak. That streak, the Alabama faithful remember all too well, included a home loss to Louisiana-Monroe.
"So if you want to drink the Kool-Aid ..." Saban said.
Even after his team demolished one of the nation's best in its own house, Saban seemed downright funereal. He couldn't find fault with the first half -- who could? -- but he made clear that the Tide lost the second half, 30-10. "Aw yeah," offensive tackle
Saban swore he wrung a few drops of joy from the most important Alabama win in almost a decade. "I know I don't look happy," Saban said. "But I am happy." Rumor has it he even cracked a smile. "Maybe," quarterback
Wilson smiled enough for both of them. With Smith, left guard
Meanwhile, when 'Bama chose to travel by land, that line bulldozed the Bulldogs. That success on the ground made it impossible for Georgia to leave a safety to help with 6-foot-4 freshman Jones, who broke free against man coverage late in the second quarter for the 22-yard touchdown catch that put 'Bama up by 31 going into the half.
'Bama's defensive line was equally rude to its host. When Cody lined up across from true freshman center
The quickest way to lose a football game is to get dominated at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. "We got ourselves into a mess," Richt said. "I don't know how else to explain it other than Alabama took it to us." Said Bama tackle Smith: "They had probably never been hit in the mouth like that."
The Bulldogs and their fellow Cocktail Partiers, Florida, could spend Nov. 1 looking like two lonely drunks at the end of a desolate bar while the rest of the national title contender party moves to the hip new club across the street. You know the one. It used to be
That crowd is fickle, though, and Saban knows it. That's why he appreciated the dichotomy of his team's performance; he can use all of Georgia's garbage-time scoring to convince his players that if they relax for even a second, Kentucky will morph into the second coming of the 1984 49ers next week. Saban knows we'll all look ahead to 'Bama-LSU on Nov. 8, but his players can't, lest they suffer the same fate as the Trojans, Gators and Bulldogs.
But before we throw the final shovelfuls of dirt on the title aspirations of USC, Georgia and Florida, let's remember one thing: LSU lost twice and still won the 2007 national title. Those hopes can be resurrected faster than Alabama's Cody can break a futon. Still, on a Saturday night in Athens when everyone wore black, it felt like a funeral. The sign one Alabama fan held as the clock wound down cinched it. It bore three letters.