Alabama was the best team in the country when it entered Week 1, and nothing that has happened in the two-plus months since then has changed that. Over 10 years under head coach Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide have perfected the art of turning highly anticipated matchups into one-sided duds, but their ongoing march through the 2017 regular season has been atypically short on drama.
On Saturday, in a battle between two SEC West powerhouses, Alabama landed a pair of haymakers on LSU and mostly chilled the rest of the night en route to a 24–10 win over LSU at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts orchestrated a nine-play, 90-yard touchdown drive capped by a four-yard touchdown pass to tight end Irv Smith in the first quarter, and an interception from defensive back Ronnie Harrison led to a second score early in the second quarter.
With that, Alabama had taken control. It rarely felt as if the Crimson Tide were in danger of relinquishing it. Late in the third quarter, the Tigers put some pressure on Alabama after tailback Darrell Williams followed a 54-yard run with a two-yard touchdown plunge, but Alabama responded quickly, driving 52 yards for a field goal before forcing a pair of LSU punts on consecutive series totaling 15 yards.
The Tigers replaced senior Danny Etling with Myles Brennan at quarterback in the fourth quarter, but the swap didn’t provide the spark LSU needed against the Crimson Tide’s smothering defense, even though Alabama churned out only 299 total yards, its fewest since the season opener against Florida State (269), and converted only five of its 14 third-down attempts. The Tigers managed only nine yards over nine plays on their final possession, which ended with Brennan being sacked by Crimson Tide freshman Dylan Moses.
Alabama is probably headed to Atlanta for the SEC championship game, where it would face East division champion and No. 1 Georgia, but the Crimson Tide will face two of their stiffest tests of the regular season over the next three weeks. Next Saturday they travel to face No. 16 Mississippi State. Two weeks later, after a breezy home date with Southern Conference foe Mercer, Alabama will head to Jordan-Hare Stadium for the Iron Bowl.
Of the two matchups, the meeting with Auburn is a better bet to put Alabama in a high-stress situation for the first time all season. The Tigers drubbed Texas A&M on the road on Saturday, and they proved they can hang with elite competition when they pushed reigning national champion Clemson on the road in early September. The Crimson Tide have yet to face a defense of Auburn’s caliber. (It entered Saturday ranked sixth nationally in yards allowed per play.)
It seems increasingly likely, though, that we’ll need to wait until the league title game to see Alabama dig deep to eke out a result. The Crimson Tide have been in cruise control for a while, and they might just keep chugging along smoothly the rest of the regular season.