The Tide punished the Gators with big hit after big hit, even knocking a few Florida players out of the game, including Florida quarterback John Brantley. "That is something we pride ourselves on," said safety Mark Barron. "Every time we hit you, we want to hurt you. We don’t want to end your career, but we want it to hurt you when we hit you. So that is just something we pride ourselves on."
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, who managed the offense (12-for-25 passing, 140 yards), was asked if this was a statement victory at Florida? "Yeah, definitely," McCarron said. "Anytime especially in the SEC you win on the road at The Swamp - every game's the same, but this one right now feels pretty good."
Even more dominant is Alabama's rush defense, which is interesting because this year's unit isn't supposed to have a great run-stopper. There's no Marcell Dareus or Terrence Cody -- that one dominant presence upfront every opponent must account for. Yet there's Alabama allowing 39.6 yards rushing. That's the best average by a Nick Saban defense through five games in his 10 years coaching in the SEC. Saban's previous three bests through five games: 54.0 yards per game in 2008, 58.2 in 2003 and 64.4 in 2009. What happened those seasons? Saban won the national title twice and almost played for another. Last year's Alabama team was already allowing 101 yards per game on the ground at this point.
Maybe the most telling image was not the final score and statistics displayed on the stadium's massive video screen. It was the expression on Alabama coach Nick Saban's face. He broke into a gallop at midfield, following a postgame television interview Saturday night on the Crimson Tide's 38-10 rout of the Florida Gators, flashing the kind of megawatt grin he rarely shows in public. He pumped his fists toward the thousands of Alabama fans gathered in the corner of the visiting team entrance in a shared moment of jubilation. For a coach who has perfected the poker face, this was atypical.
Elsewhere, Saturday belonged to the quarterbacks (see below). But not in Gainesville, where the Crimson Tide's marvel of modern science put the offense on his back, personally accounting for 208 of Alabama's 366 total yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 38-10 rout over Florida. Before he was pulled in the fourth quarter, Richardson further betrayed the existence of an adamantium exoskeleton and fast-healing powers by handling the ball on more than half of 'Bama's offensive snaps, including its two longest gains of the night: A 22-yard screen pass on 3rd-and-8 that set up a short, back-breaking touchdown in the second quarter in the second quarter, and a 36-yard TD run that slammed the door shut in the fourth.
"Trent, you can stop him for most of the game, but in the third or fourth quarter, he's going to pop one big and rip one off," George said. "That's the type of back he is, and he can hit it between the tackles. I'm very impressed with his power and speed. I think between he and Eddie Lacy, that's a great running combination."
The difference between Saturday and those losses from back in the program’s history, however, was clear: Alabama never lost its composure, actually seeming to feed off the energy of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. In addition to putting more talent on the field, Alabama supplemented that talent with better and more focused coaching. There were plenty of times Alabama could have opted to fold up; not only did Alabama not succumb, it threw the pressure and the chaos back into Florida’s face. It is now fair to begin asking the question of whether this team could develop into one of the best teams in Alabama history. Given the history of Alabama football, it’s simultaneously an exciting and a scary question.
UF likely will reveal the specifics of Brantley's injury today, and how long he will be out. "It's unfortunate for John," Muschamp said Sunday. "We'll see how it goes here as far as our medical staff is concerned and then working into this week."
Alabama (5-0) is 43-2 against Vanderbilt since 1960. That includes 20 consecutive victories since a 30-21 loss in 1984, and 14 more consecutive victories before that loss. But there was a time when the Commodores were competitive with the Crimson Tide. Before 1960, Vanderbilt had a 17-15-4 edge in the series that dates to 1903.
Coaches, recruiting analysts and an N.C.A.A. official said in interviews that illegal payment for a prospect’s unofficial visit was one of the most commonly manipulated N.C.A.A. rules. While the importance of unofficial visits has increased because of the speeded-up recruiting calendar with unofficial commitments, there is little scrutiny of how prospects and their families pay for the visits. "It seems to be a real concern," said Rachel Newman Baker, an N.C.A.A. managing director of enforcement, who said the N.C.A.A. had been studying the issue in both football and basketball. She added, "As we’ve been doing our outreach and meeting with folks, it seems like this has been on top of the list."
As college programs struggle to maintain their dominance in the face of increasing parity, the issue of how much the players eat during the season—and what they're eating—has been elevated from a running joke to a serious matter that includes teams of chefs, dietitians and volunteers, and that's becoming part of the way some teams prepare for games. Alabama considers the matter important enough to have Amy Bragg, a team nutritionist, on the sideline for most games. She said she's responsible for feeding players time-released foods at halftime to ensure players won't fade or cramp in the fourth quarter.
In the years I was coming here, Bryant’s door was always open. Unless on the phone or with someone, he would wave you in and to the couch. When you sat down, you were like a foot or two below Bryant. Your view was looking "up."
Once, just being ornery, I plopped into a chair beside his desk. He didn’t say anything, but his displeasure was evident. I returned to the couch on all future visits.