A little over a month ago, a lot of people were ready to pour dirt over Alabama's national championship chances following the win over Ole Miss.
You remember, of course. The two teams lit up the scoreboard like there were on a pinball machine with unlimited play.
The Crimson Tide won 63-48. Alabama's offense rang up 723 yards while Ole Miss totaled 647. The combined 111 points and 1,370 yards both set Southeastern Conference records.
Nick Saban said afterward it was like Ole Miss knew everything Alabama was going to do defensively, which made sense as his former offensive coordinator faced the scheme in practice every day for three years. Lane Kiffin told him at midfield "I thought they played defense in the SEC."
At that point, Alabama was giving up 30.3 points per game, 470.3 total yards, 150.7 rushing yards, and the passing efficiency rating was 148.72.
Opponents had also converted 27 of 50 third-down opportunities (54 percent).
Now take a look:
Alabama leads the SEC in scoring defense at 19.3 points per game.
It is third in total defense at 359.1 yards.
The run defense is fourth, at 118.9.
Finally, in passing efficiency defense it is first at 119.5.
The Crimson Tide is also second in third-down defense with 42 of 110 chances (38.2 percent).
It would be easy to suggest that Alabama's numbers are partially reflective of facing struggling Tennessee and Mississippi State, and a shorthanded Kentucky team, and there's some truth in that.
However, this impressive run began against Georgia, and the numbers were obviously skewed in the other direction by Ole Miss.
The Crimson Tide hasn't given up a touchdown since the third quarter in Knoxville.
"I think that playing with four out of five new starters in the secondary, five out of six when you go to dime, I think the knowledge and experience, not making mental errors, guys being more confident about what they’re doing has probably contributed to that," Saban said about the improvement on third down. "Understanding how you have to prepare for a game. What teams want to do on third down. I think all those things probably have contributed to it.
"I think we just played better team defense on third down."
Alabama's young secondary is coming of age, with freshman Malachi Moore maybe the defensive surprise of the SEC, and sophomore Jordan Battle looking more confident with each game. The Crimson Tide is also getting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks and everyone knows there's still plenty of room for more improvement.
Two thoughts on the defense heading into Auburn:
1) The team that wins the national championship often isn't the most talented, but the one that improved the most over the course of the season (especially down the stretch).
2) With Moore returning a fumble, and both junior cornerback Patrick Surtain II and Jordan each enjoying a pick-six, the Alabama defense has been responsible for scoring 21 points over the last three games. The opponents only scored 20 points, total.
The road is pretty clear for the College Football Playoff to have two SEC teams this year depending on what happens in the SEC Championship Game.
Unless it takes a loss against Auburn or Arkansas, Alabama is probably in regardless of a win in Atlanta.
Florida has to win out. Otherwise, Texas A&M will have a shot as it's currently at No. 5 in the rankings, plus Clemson and Notre Dame are looking at a rematch in the ACC title game.
Two things to note, though:
1) If Alabama is the No. 1 seed it'll play in the Sugar Bowl against the No. 4 seed. Another trip to the Rose Bowl would be nice, but it's a long way to go for a semifinal, especially since the title game will subsequently be played in South Florida.
2) The committee wasn't consistent in dropping Georgia (5-2) only to No. 9. The Bulldogs lost to then-No. 2 Alabama 41-24, and to No. 8 Florida 44-28 (plus only beat Mississippi State last week 31-24).
Last year, after Alabama lost to No. 2 LSU 46-41, and at No. 15 Auburn 48-45. It got dropped down all the way from No. 5 down to No. 12.
This week's cancelation list
Saban testing positive for the coronavirus again, and this time having symptoms, made national headlines. So did Clemson coach Dabo Swinney alleging a positive COVID-19 test was used by Florida State administration as an "excuse" to call last week's game off.
With the coronavirus surging throughout the country (with fears that it will dramatically rise even more over the Thanksgiving holiday), it's looking more and more like it'll only be tougher to get through the season
Here's the list of cancelations for this weekend as of Thursday morning, per SI:
- Minnesota @ Wisconsin: The matchup slated for Nov. 28 has been called off and will not be rescheduled. According to Ralph Russo of The Associated Press, the Badgers are now ineligible for the Big 10 Championship game. According to Brett McMurphy of Stadium, Minnesota paused its team-related activities after nine athletes and six staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
- Oklahoma @ West Virginia : The matchup slated for Nov. 28 has been postponed. The Big 12 teams will now square off on Dec. 12.
- Arkansas @ Missouri: The matchup slated for Nov. 28 has been postponed due to positive tests in the Razorbacks program. Missouri will instead face Vanderbilt on Saturday.
- Washington @ Washington State: The game has been declared no contest and will not be rescheduled.
- Utah @ Arizona State: The game scheduled for Nov. 29 will not be played. ASU failed to meet the requirement for minimum scholarship players available.
- After their respective games were canceled, Utah will travel to play at Washington on Saturday, Nov. 28 at 7:30 p.m. PT, the conference announced on Tuesday night.
- San Diego State @ Fresno State: The game has been declared no contest and will not be rescheduled.
- Colorado State @ Air Force: This game has been canceled due to positive COVID-19 tests in the Rams program. No make-up date has been scheduled.
- Louisiana Tech @FIU: Saturday's game has been canceled because of FIU's lack of available healthy players at a key position.
American Athletic Conference:
- Tulsa @ Houston: The game has been postponed due to COVID-19 issues at Houston. This is the seventh cancellation or postponement this season for Tulsa.
Did you notice?
• Pour One Out for the Sports Bar. The pandemic has shuttered countless businesses, including several celebrated watering holes that were like second homes to like-minded sports fans
• The Ravens disciplined a strength and conditioning coach for COVID-19 conduct that helped lead to an outbreak on the team (Mark Ingram II was among those to test positive). The Thanksgiving game with the Steelers was rescheduled for Sunday.
• Markus Paul, the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning coach since 2018, passed away on Wednesday night. He was 54. Cause of death has yet to be announced.
• Sean Lewis Is bringing Saban's alma matter Kent State back to life.
Christopher Walsh's notes column All Things CW appears weekly on BamaCentral