Kevin C. Cox
Your daily dose of Crimson Tide news.
The early frontrunner, West Virginia's Geno Smith, has seen his candidacy go up in flames faster than a Morgantown couch. Plenty of players could step into his place based on statistics. Offensive statistics are up everywhere - even the SEC, although more so elsewhere. McCarron doesn't have a catchy nickname like AJ Football or total yardage numbers that look like the national debt. But he does win, and has to the tune of 19-1 in his career to date. It has been worth a Heisman for other quarterbacks, although invoking the name Gino Torretta probably won't do much for most Alabama fans. What might hinder McCarron more than anything, though, is his dearth of drama. He doesn't get the Tom Hanks or Daniel Day-Lewis roles playing for Alabama, the star turns with great Hollywood endings, the Oscar-worthy stuff. Alabama games these days are about as dramatic as "Paul Blart, Mall Cop." Or a better comparison might be "The Avengers," a big box-office production in which the bad guys inevitably get blown up and beat up by the end. McCarron might be like the guy who plays Captain America, but the fact that I cannot recall the name of the guy who plays Captain America off the top of my head makes the point.
On Sunday mornings during the college football season, the NCAA releases a battery of statistics and, dependably in recent years, the University of Alabama has been at the top, or very nearly so, in all of the defensive categories. But on this particular Sunday, Alabama sat atop a different category. By one measure designed by the NCAA itself, the Crimson Tide was the No. 1 passing team in he country. Consider that statement for a moment. Alabama is the current archetype of hard-nosed smash-mouth football, the anachronism of offense. Nick Saban, after some recent comments about no-huddle offenses, was vilified as if he had criticized Mom and apple pie. So imagine how the words "Alabama has the nation's best passing game" turned to bitter dust in the mouth when uttered in Eugene or Waco or Morgantown.
In three meetings with UA as Mississippi State head coach, Dan Mullen's teams have scored a grand total of 17 points. Both of State's touchdowns since 2009 came on scoring tosses from Tyler Russell, who will make the third appearance and second start of his career against the Crimson Tide this week.
The NCAA may have banned all types of postgame fun like smoking cigars following another Alabama victory over Tennessee, but the message obviously didn’t carry to everyone in the Tide locker room. And in the moments following the Crimson Tide’s 44-13 win at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night, there were a lot of happy voices that have never tasted defeat in the imposing arena that Robert Neyland made famous. “That’s a special feeling for me,” said All-American center Barrett Jones, a Tennessee native who grew up as the son of a former Tide basketball player who knows all too well about the importance of the Third Saturday in October. “There’s no better feeling, personally for me, than watching the stadium empty out before the game is over. We got a chance to see that again tonight, so it was fun.”
Now MSU fans can daydream this week with their Bulldogs heading to Alabama for a high-level showdown they haven’t seen in some time. An undefeated MSU team has not played in a game against a fellow undefeated team this late in a season since 1941, when the 5-0-1 Bulldogs fell to undefeated Duquesne 16-0 on Nov. 15. MSU won the its lone SEC championship that season. “I don’t care about people giving us respect or not,” Perkins said. “We’re 7-0, and we keep moving forward. That’s all we need to do.”
“I can’t speak for the Alabama side of things, but I think for our guys, they wanted to be in this position,” he said Sunday, a day after his 12th-ranked Bulldogs improved to 7-0 with a 45-3 victory over Middle Tennessee. “I expected coming into this season that this is where we’d be. In the fourth year, a lot of these guys have been in this program for a while. They wanted the opportunity to compete for an SEC championship, and to do so, you have to get to this game where we are, and we’ve been able to do that so far.”
If Alabama played Tennessee every week, it might vault up the passing rankings like it did after last night's game. It can't go anywhere but down in passing efficiency, a category in which Alabama is now No. 1 in the nation.