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Quick Slants: A nod to the Nicktator

I don't know about you, but I found it utterly impossible to resist the stray "devil went down to Georgia" reference when Nick Saban marched into Athens and stole the Dawgs' proverbial soul last Saturday.

It's no secret the infamous "Nicktator" has been a magnet for cheap punch lines ever since swimming away from his contract with the Miami Dolphins before last season. You could argue the fuel from Saban's two-timing tactics has allowed Quick Slants to thrive for the better part of a year. We've chewed through Saban zingers like Kobayashi at a buffet. From jokes about Halloween costumes to a full-fledged SABAN Scale, we've painted Saban as a spineless coward with no loyalty, morals, or human emotions.

Though that might all be true -- heck, it probably is -- one simple fact has trumped us: The guy can flat out coach.

Saturday night, between the hedges, Saban was at his absolute finest. Amid all the poppycock of Georgia's "Blackout," throwback jerseys and goofy funeral comments, Alabama blew the Bulldogs off the field and jumped out to a 31-0 halftime lead, almost without the Dawgs knowing what had happened. And despite ending with a 41-30 score, the game was really over before it ever started. Georgia's defense was so exploited, its offense was forced to play catch-up the entire second half. Matthew Stafford wasn't a factor until it was too late. Knowshon Moreno looked more like "Knowshow." The crowd looked like it was recovering from a hangover.

And that's what Saban does to an opponent. That's how he beats you. That's why he's the most powerful coach in sports, according to Forbes Magazine. We've joked about him being a snake, and perhaps he is. His teams are never flashy or spectacular. There's rarely a superstar or Heisman frontrunner in the spotlight. They just sneak up on you by being so fundamentally sound. They're powerful on the lines, stingy on defense and efficient on offense. They're leaner and more balanced than the NutraSystem diet.

So while Georgia was caught flat-footed by the Crimson Tide's unexpected surge, it should come as no surprise that one of Saban's teams is again causing a stir and forcing its way into the national championship picture.

Perhaps the truth is that Saban is actually some kind of God. In that case, it looks like I'm headed to hell.

Let's just ask the obvious: How in the name of Pete Carroll did Oregon State manage to dump top-ranked USC last Thursday? The Trojans have an All-America at nearly every defensive position, go five deep at running back and have a quarterback with more emotional giddyup than Traveler the horse. Yet they lost to a Beavers squad that lost to Stanford in week one and is an 11-point underdog against Utah? Whaaaaat?!?

How exactly does something like this happen? While it's not fair to speculate, we should at least consider the possibility that USC was confused by playing a rare Thursday night game. Perhaps the Trojans thought they had joined the Big East and choked accordingly. Just a thought.

In losing to Navy and becoming the Midshipmen's first ranked victim of the since 1985, Wake Forest solidified a belief most college football fans should come to accept by season's end: The best way to make the ACC look formidable is by banning its teams from non-conference play. Just let them fight one another tooth and nail so it looks like they're playing in a highly-competitive conference.

It's just not a good conference. South Florida blew away N.C. State by 41. Unranked Maryland beat Clemson. Duke (!) beat Virginia by 28. Now would be a great time to go ahead and revoke the ACC's "BCS Conference" card and give it to a more deserving entity. You know, like the WAC or the MAC or the SEC West.

Fact: BYU isn't slated to play its first opponent with a top 25 ranking or a winning record until October 16th!

Fact: BYU's first four wins came against unranked titans Northern Iowa, Washington, UCLA and Wyoming!

Fact: BYU is ranked seventh in the most recent USA Today poll!

Ah yes, here's the beauty of college football, and specifically the magic of David Blaine preseason polls! BYU, which started the year ranked 17th in the same poll, has benefited remarkably from a weak schedule and the recent losses by teams with higher rankings. Now, miraculously, the Cougars find themselves in the top 10 ahead of teams like USC, Georgia and Ohio State, despite playing patsies and, you know, not having a game last week. How did this happen? How is this justifiable? Because BYU can see the Fiesta Bowl from its front door?

1. More surprising season: Vanderbilt or Clemson?

2. Better conference: Big East or Pac-10?

3. Better Fox show: Prison Break or House?

4. Better Clausen hair: Long or Short?

5. More underrated exercise: Push-ups or Pull-ups?

6. Better Nintendo character: King Boo or Toad?

7. Better stadium novelty: Everyone wearing the same color or The Wave?

8. More frustrating video game: Super Mario Bros. 2 or Burger Time?

9. Hotter Friday Night Lights actress: Adrienne Palicki or Minka Kelly?

10. More overrated top 10 team: Texas or Texas Tech?

From reader David, in response to last week's banter about the Oregon Quarterback Curse:

"I think you should put Oregon quarterbacks on the Sports Illustrated cover! Maybe combining the two curses would actually break them both! Just a thought."

That's an interesting theory you've got there, David. Trying to curse a curse. My fear, though, is that a marraige between such fierce occult forces would only create a more powerful hex in the college football community. It would be like crossing the streams in Ghostbusters -- we'd potentially risk setting the Oregon Quarterback Curse loose and have to watch it destroy the knees of all Sports Illustrated's cover men and women, regardless of college affiliation. The legal department would never go for it.

Ty Hildenbrandt writes Quick Slants every Wednesday. Check out his podcast at SolidVerbal.com or drop him an e-mail at tyhildenbrandt@gmail.com.

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