3:30 PM ET, November 26, 2011
Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, AL
AUBURN, Ala. -- Trent Richardson and No. 2 Alabama have convinced Nick Saban that they're worthy of competing for college football's top prize.
They'll have to wait a while before the final decision is rendered.
Richardson rushed for a career-high 203 yards and AJ McCarron threw three first-half touchdown passes to lift Alabama to a 42-14 victory over rival Auburn (No. 24 BCS) on Saturday in what amounted to a statement game.
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Alabama's commanding win over rival Auburn did more than erase memories of last season's letdown. The Tide made it clear that anything other than a rematch with LSU in the BCS title game would be a joke, writes Gene Wojciechowski. Story
Let the lobbying begin. Saban said he thinks the Tide is one of the nation's best two teams, Richardson's the top player and Bama deserves a second shot at LSU.
"This team lost one game in overtime to a very, very good team who's No. 1 right now," the Tide coach said. "And we lost in overtime. Everybody's got to make their choices and decisions about that.
"But I think we've got a great football team and a great bunch of young men who have done a wonderful job and played some really dominant football on both sides of the ball. I think they deserve an opportunity, the best opportunity that's out there for them."
The Tide (11-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) have a week before finding out if its resume is good enough to secure a shot at a second national title in three years. Oklahoma State (No. 4 BCS, No. 5 AP) and No. 1 LSU have big games remaining against Oklahoma (No. 9 BCS, No. 12 AP) and No. 13 Georgia, respectively.
"That's out of our hands but I think we've proven we should be there without a doubt," said Alabama tight end Brad Smelley, who had six catches for 86 yards and a touchdown.
Richardson ran 27 times and caught a 5-yard touchdown pass in his final chance to impress Heisman voters. He had runs of 35 and 57 yards to set up second-half scores.
"To me, Trent's the best football player in the country," Saban said.
History on Alabama's Side
In BCS history (since 1998), five teams have been ranked in the top two of the BCS and not played the last week of the regular season. All five went on to play for the BCS title, meaning none were jumped in the rankings while idle. But none of these teams played in a conference with a championship game.
|2006||Ohio State||L, 41-14|
|2002||Ohio State||W, 31-24|
|2000||Florida State||L, 13-2|
|1999||Florida State||W, 46-29|
|1999||Virginia Tech||L, 46-29|
The thousands of Bama faithful in the stands seemed to agree.
Fans began chanting first "Heisman" and then "LSU" in the fourth, with a sizable contingent wearing crimson and white remaining in the stands afterward clamoring for a rematch. By then, there wasn't all that much orange and blue left.
The Tide fell to LSU 9-6 in an overtime game that Bama fans at least feel didn't settle the matter of which one is better.
Richardson said he'd already gotten a call from LSU star Russell Shepard saying "See you in New Orleans" for the title game.
Even if the national picture remains fuzzy, it's pretty clear which is the best team in the state.
In the end, the win might have given the Tide enough style points to hold onto No. 2 in the BCS rankings whatever happens next week.
"We knew coming in that, hey, if you want to be in the national championship again -- we deserve to be in it -- we had to take care of business," McCarron said. "And that's what we did."
The Tide dominated statistically but didn't put Auburn (7-5, 4-4) away until Dee Milliner's 35-yard interception return early in the fourth quarter. Alabama entered the quarter with a 309-44 advantage in total yards but also gave up touchdowns on a fumble recovery and a kick return.
McCarron completed 18 of 23 passes for 184 yards but only attempted five second-half passes. Richardson handled the rest. He gained 142 yards on 13 carries in the second half against a defense ranked 98th nationally against the run.
"Any time you've got No. 3 in your backfield, a team's going to challenge you," McCarron said.
The result was more than enough to end Auburn's streak of 14 straight wins at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"I've got a locker room full of guys right now and coaches that are hurting and a lot of fans that are hurting as well," Tigers coach Gene Chizik said. "So this is a tough day.
"We wanted to keep the game close in the fourth quarter and have a chance to win the game. We got to the fourth quarter and felt like we were somewhere in that ballpark, and the fourth quarter got away from us. We kind of self-destructed."
The Tigers' biggest offensive weapons were mostly nonfactors. Tailback Mike Dyer, the SEC's No. 2 rusher, had three carries at the half and finished with 13 for 48 yards.
"It was the best defense we've played against this year," Moseley said. "I feel pretty confident saying that."
The Tigers did threaten an offensive touchdown in the fourth but stalled on downs after getting it to the 5. Then Richardson scampered down the left sideline and sprinted to the other side of the field for the 57-yarder.
Auburn managed to hang around for three quarters. Then Milliner intercepted a badly overthrown pass by Moseley, who has now had three passes returned for TDs in Auburn's three biggest games against LSU, Georgia and Bama.
All those were blowouts, but Chizik said his team wasn't having flashbacks.
"It wasn't here we go again," he said. "It was just let's keep fighting and let's keep playing and let's get this thing in the fourth quarter and keep it close enough where we could win it."
The two-point play made it 35-14, and Auburn couldn't come close to a second straight huge Iron Bowl comeback.
Like last season, Alabama led 24-7 at the half. This time the Tigers didn't have Cam Newton pulling the trigger on a comeback en route to a Heisman and a national title.
Auburn struck instantly in the second half. Onterio McCalebb returned the opening kick 83 yards for a touchdown, the Tigers' first score on a kick return in Iron Bowl history.
The Tigers then held Alabama to a field goal and converted a fourth-and-1 near midfield but couldn't sustain the momentum change.
Auburn followed it up with a fumbled pitch for a 10-yard loss, a penalty and a lateral to Frazier, who badly overthrew a receiver deep.
Alabama outgained the Tigers 397-140 and held Auburn to 3 of 15 on third downs.
"Our goal today was to play our best football game," Saban said. "We went out and played the best we could play. I'm satisfied with what our players did from that standpoint."
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Alabama took a 24-7 halftime lead and its defense kept Auburn's offense quiet.
Gameball goes to... Alabama's Trent Richardson, who rushed for 203 yards and caught a TD pass.
Stat of the game... 0. No offensive TDs for Auburn. Fumble recovery and kickoff return were Tigers' only scores.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||7-13||3-15|
|4th Down Conversions||1-1||2-4|
|TD||06:33||Kenny Bell 41 Yd Pass From AJ McCarron (Jeremy Shelley Kick)||7||0|
|TD||04:25||Brad Smelley 35 Yd Pass From AJ McCarron (Jeremy Shelley Kick)||14||0|
|TD||00:04||Kenneth Carter Recovered Fumble In End Zone (Cody Parkey Kick)||14||7|
|TD||09:11||Trent Richardson 5 Yd Pass From AJ McCarron (Jeremy Shelley Kick)||21||7|
|FG||01:44||Jeremy Shelley 30 Yd||24||7|
|TD||14:49||Onterio McCalebb 83 Yd Kickoff Return (Cody Parkey Kick)||24||14|
|FG||08:47||Jeremy Shelley 28 Yd||27||14|
|TD||14:38||Dee Milliner 35 Yd Interception Return (Aj Mccarron Pass To Michael Williams For Two-Point Conversion)||35||14|
|TD||06:40||Jalston Fowler 15 Yd Run (Jeremy Shelley Kick)||42||14|
Trent Richardson was at his best against the best competition. Against 5 ranked teams, he posted at least 200 all-purpose yards 3 times. Even in the loss to LSU, Richardson posted a total of 192 all-purpose yards, including at least 80 rushing and receiving yards each. Saturday, Richardson posted a career-high 203 rush yards in a win against 24th-ranked Auburn.[+]
Trent Richardson vs Ranked Teams This Season
In the BCS history (since 1998), 5 previous teams have been ranked in the top 2 of the BCS and not played the last week of the regular season. All 5 went on to play for the BCS title game, meaning none were "jumped" while idle. '06 Ohio State '02 Ohio State << '00 FSU '99 FSU << '99 Virginia Tech >> Won BCS title
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