Finishing Unbeaten?

SportsNation

Which team is more likely to run the table this season?

  •  
    56%
  •  
    44%

Discuss (Total votes: 88,513)

ALABAMA
OREGON

Simply the best

Schlabach By Mark Schlabach
ESPN.com
Archive

No. 1 Alabama will play No. 5 LSU on Saturday night at boisterous Tiger Stadium, where LSU coach Les Miles says "dreams come to die."

Defending BCS national champion Alabama then will host No. 16 Texas A&M on Nov. 10 and reeling Auburn in the Nov. 24 Iron Bowl, with FCS foe Western Carolina sandwiched in between.

And even though the Crimson Tide would have to play the SEC East champion (possibly No. 6 Georgia) in the Dec. 1 SEC championship game in Atlanta's Georgia Dome, they still have the best opportunity among the top four teams in the BCS standings to finish the regular season with an unblemished record.

If Alabama wins its last four regular-season games and the SEC championship game, it will get a chance to defend its BCS national championship in the Jan. 7 Discover BCS National Championship Game in Miami. If the Tide win that game, they would become college football's first consensus back-to-back national champion since Nebraska in 1994-95.

And the Crimson Tide will repeat because, quite simply, they're the best team in the country and look unbeatable at this point.

Alabama can smother opponents with its menacing defense; it leads the country in scoring defense (8.1 points), total defense (203.1 yards), run defense (57.3 yards), pass-efficiency defense (86.6 yards) and pass defense (145.9 yards).

Opponents have had trouble running against Alabama's rebuilt defense, and its secondary waits for opposing quarterbacks to make mistakes.

What separates this Alabama team from last season's championship squad is its passing game. Quarterback AJ McCarron leads the country in pass efficiency with a 182.4 rating and hasn't thrown an interception in his past 262 pass attempts dating to last season. With freshman Amari Cooper and junior Kenny Bell, the Tide are equipped with receivers who can stretch the field, which they struggled to do last season.

The Tide still can run the ball when they need to -- they're averaging 214.4 rushing yards and 222 passing yards -- but they have a much more explosive offense this season. Freshman tailback T.J. Yeldon averages 7 yards per carry and is a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball.

Of course, Alabama's dream might very well die in Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday night. The Tigers nearly derailed Alabama's BCS title hopes with a 9-6 overtime victory in Tuscaloosa, Ala., last season. The Tigers are much tougher at home, posting a 226-60-4 record in night games at Tiger Stadium since 1960.

But if Alabama gets by LSU on Saturday night, it might be smooth sailing to the BCS Championship Game.

The will of the football gods

Miller By Ted Miller
ESPN.com
Archive

The biggest reason that Alabama won't run the table is everyone thinks it will. When everyone thinks something will happen, it often doesn't, particularly in the wild, wild world of college football.

Sure, Alabama is the only college football team that looks more invincible than Oregon. But perceptions of invincibility are often yokes in college football. See Miami in 2002, USC in 2005 and Ohio State in 2006.

Sure, Oregon's schedule is far tougher than Alabama's. That is not up for debate. The Ducks will play three ranked teams -- two on the road -- and visit California. The Crimson Tide will play two ranked teams, an FCS school and one of the worst Auburn teams in program history.

Then Alabama and Oregon, if all goes according to plan, will each play a ranked team in their conference title games. But all won't go according to plan.

Alabama should run the table, but the reason it won't is this: mystical forces.

Oregon should run the table and will, and the reason is this: destiny.

(And, yes, I am composing this argument in EXACTLY the same terms that would be employed by Alabama coach Nick Saban and Oregon coach Chip Kelly, a pair of metaphysical poets if I've ever seen one.)

The Crimson Tide, first of all, must pay a karmic tax for playing Western Carolina on Nov. 17. That's a scheduling obscenity. Parents will be forced to cover their children's eyes as Alabama's beastly talented players make the Catamounts caterwaul like 65 kittens in duffel bag.

But let's start with LSU. The Tigers are coached by Les Miles, the Mad Hatter. Miles is a lot more fun than Saban. That might not count for a lot with many clear-thinking folks, but it counts for something as I type at this moment. Further, while the home team often face-plants in this series, you can expect a salty, well-lubricated Tiger Stadium crowd to add what I will call an X factor.

Then Alabama plays Texas A&M. The Aggies are quarterbacked by a talented, exciting freshman in Johnny Manziel. The very idea that a freshman quarterback could do well against a Saban defense is so absurd that it just might happen.

Then, after the game against Western Carolina, which Saban surely will lecture reporters about respecting, there's the Iron Bowl with Auburn, which is likely to fire its coach.

One word: storybook. What a way for Auburn coach Gene Chizik to go out, ruining the Tide's perfect season. Cue up "One Shining Moment."

Then probably comes Georgia in the SEC title game. I am from Atlanta. The Bulldogs will be particularly motivated to make sure I turn out right on this one.

As for Oregon, the Ducks are due to win the program's first national championship. How about that for an argument?

As for the football part of football, USC doesn't have the discipline to defeat a tight ship like Oregon. California may be close to waving a white flag over its season. Stanford doesn't have the team speed to keep up with the Ducks. And Oregon State hasn't beaten Oregon since 2007, and there's no reason for it to start doing so this season.

So case closed. It has been clearly demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt that Alabama won't run the table because doing so runs counter to the will of the college football gods, who just so happen to find Oregon's variegated uniforms refreshing. (Fielding Yost has been seen in lime green socks.)