Alabama fans can start counting on a legitimate shot at the playoffs again

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Now, Alabama fan, you can start doing the math in a different direction than your previous ciphering. And, admit it, there had been little sense of dread in the pit of your stomach that began to build up two weeks ago.

Even The Wall Street Journal took a moment from its breathless reporting of how our 401k’s are going down the tank to report this week on the Alabama and Georgia mentality:

“These fan bases have spent the week wallowing in feelings that are unfamiliar around the SEC. Like fear. And anxiety. And the nagging feeling that something terrible is about to happen.”

Alabama's Derrick Henry gashed open the Georgia defense (The Associated Press)

Alabama’s Derrick Henry gashed open the Georgia defense (The Associated Press)

Something terrible happened to Georgia. Scoreboard says, Alabama 38-10. It was the Tide’s most lopsided win over a top 10 opponent on the road.

Mixing metaphors more efficiently than he did his offense, Georgia coach Mark Richt said, “The dam broke and unfortunately we just didn’t have enough counterpunches to get back in it.”

So, since those of us with tickets, press credentials and hi-def TVs aren’t limited to the “play ‘em one at a time” NCAA statute, we can now add everything up and put Alabama back in the College Football Playoffs.

Not to, you know, get too far ahead of ourselves.

But since the pessimists and cynics among us – or, say, the Vegas wise guys who had Georgia favored to win – had done the sort of math that had Alabama’s dynasty left like a pile of Roman ruins, well, I guess being a little drastic on the other end of the spectrum is appropriate.

On this rainy day in Georgia, the Crimson Tide simply dominated the Bulldogs. The outcome, it wouldn’t have been a surprise either way. But so absurdly lopsided, who saw that coming?

It demonstrated with a huge exclamation point that Alabama football is alive and well. It demonstrated, despite the anomaly that was Ole Miss-Florida, the disparity between the SEC West and the SEC East. The SEC West is Ronda Rousey. The SEC East is Betty White.

It’s real easy to peel back just one page of the calendar, to the 2014 season, to see where Alabama lost early to Ole Miss, then ran the table all the way to the playoff semifinals.

Now, the 2015 math: Seven more to go, plus the SEC championship game. And a rematch with Georgia there.  The road map includes Arkansas, a trip to Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU, at Mississippi State, Charleston Southern and at Auburn.

After bullying Georgia, does any one of those, save LSU, really, truly scare the bejeebers out of you?

If you were, blush, damnfool enough to go on live television two hours before kickoff and proclaim that you weren’t yet sold on Alabama’s defense, you forgot one mildly important thing in your analysis. Never ever, EVER get sold on a Georgia defense, at least of the more recent vintages. Georgia is pretty much guaranteed to roll over and play dead once or twice a season, and it chose to do so on Saturday.

That’s not to take anything away from Alabama’s offense. Jake Coker established himself, going 11-for-16 for 190 yards and no interceptions. (But what, pray tell, was he still doing out there, and running the ball, in the final minutes? A lasting memory for me of covering an Alabama game at Georgia was seeing Brodie Croyle’s shoulder mangled when he had no business being in the game in 2003.) Derrick Henry was more workmanlike than sensational, with a career-high 148 yards on 26 carries.

Meanwhile, there is Lane Kiffin. He’s the oddball, semi-annoying cousin that every family has. (Note: If you don’t think your family has one, then you’re probably it.) Despite Nick Saban barking at him, despite the critics, despite his speckled history, he called a terrific game. It wasn’t without blemish, but for the most part his players executed splendidly – and Georgia’s defense cooperated amiably.

There’s a long way to go. But it’s not nearly as scary as the other potential outcome, a two-loss Alabama team and championship hopes shot by Oct. 3. Now the road that doesn’t look quite so bumpy when you can look in the mirror and see the road-kill left behind.

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