What We Learned: Nobody in the SEC West is going to challenge Alabama

You know what? Some of the stuff that the 2017 Alabama team can do in the sport of football just ain’t quite fair.

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Here’s what I mean by that:

**--There is domination and then there is Alabama domination: The Crimson Tide put up 601 yards in Saturday’s game with Tennessee. The Volunteers had a grand total of 108 yards. Alabama ran 86 plays. Tennessee ran just 46

**--There are a bunch of teams out there just dying to have one dynamic quarterback. Alabama sophomore Jalen Hurts is 21-1 as the starter. His backup is true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who came into Saturday’s game and threw for 134 yards and ran 23 yards for a touchdown. It’s just one more thing to keep Alabama’s opponents up late at night. [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

 **--When Alabama got on the goal line against Tennessee, the Crimson Tide brought in its elephant package that includes defensive linemen Da’Ron Payne (308 pounds) and Quinnen Williams (285 pounds) lined up the backfield. Ahead of them are right guard Lester Cotton (324) and right tackle Matt Womack (324). That’s 1,241 pounds of blockers clearing the way for Bo Scarbrough (6-2, 240 pounds) to run the ball. The New England Patriots ain’t stopping that.

**--Alabama’s first two running backs are Damien Harris and Scarbrough, both All-America caliber players who will soon be making a living on Sundays. The No. 3 tailback is Najee Harris, who was the No. 1 high school running back in the country last season. The No. 4 tailback is Joshua Jacobs, who came off the bench to rush for 43 yards and catch passes for 24 more.

Let’s put it this way: A bunch of us wondered what this Alabama offense would look like when Lane Kiffin was no longer the coordinator. Now we know. The Crimson Tide, under former New England coach Brian Daboll, is more dominant than ever.

I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings to the rest of the SEC, but I don’t see another team—with the possible exception of Georgia—who can keep it close against Alabama. LSU may prove me wrong on Nov. 4. But that’s the way I see it right now.

Here are four other things we learned on Saturday:

1--You have to be happy for Mark Richt: For the third straight week Miami (6-0, 4-0) was taken to the limit and found a way a way to win. The Hurricanes scored a touchdown with 2:48 remaining and the defense made it stand up to beat Syracuse 27-19. It was the Hurricanes’ 11th straight win under Richt, in his second season at his alma mater after being the head coach at Georgia the previous 15 years.

With undefeated Georgia leading the SEC East under Kirby Smart, and Richt’s team leading the ACC Coastal, it looks like things have worked out for both schools.

Miami gets struggling North Carolina this week and then has a big division showdown with Virginia Tech (6-1, 2-1) on Nov. 4.

2--Derrius Guice is finally healthy and that ain’t good for LSU’s opponents: The LSU running back made history Saturday night with 276 yards rushing in a 40-24 win over Ole Miss.

In the process Guice became the first running back in SEC history to post three games over 250 yards rushing. Nobody—not even Herschel or Bo—had ever done that.

LSU (6-2, 3-1) has now won three straight SEC games since the inexplicable home loss to Troy on Sept. 30.

“We were in a hole and we dug ourselves out of a hole,” said coach Ed Orgeron. “We know who we are.”

LSU gets a week off before going to No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 4.

3--Auburn’s not out of this thing. No, seriously. They’re not: I was told early in the season that Auburn would never reach its full potential until both running backs—Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway—were healthy.

Pettway had only four carries for seven yards in last week’s loss to LSU. But Saturday night he had three touchdowns runs of 2, 38, and 11 yards in a 52-20 win at Arkansas.

“It was good to get Pettway back out there,” said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. “He’s getting close to 100 percent and he ran hard.”

Here is how Auburn is still in it. If Auburn runs the table against Texas A&M, Georgia, and Alabama and LSU loses one of its last four games, then Auburn would win the SEC West. Then it would probably have to beat Georgia for the second time in less than a month. But do that and an 11-2 Auburn, I believe, would get in the playoffs.

Is it likely? Probably not. But when the calendar turns November all you can ask for is a shot. And Auburn still has a shot.

4—If Mississippi State beats Texas A&M the Bulldogs will finish 10-2:  A lot of people (including your humble correspondent) wondered about Mississippi State after back-to-back road losses at Georgia (31-3) and Auburn (49-10). But the Bulldogs, who beat LSU 37-7 way back on Sept. 16, have bounced back nicely with dominating performances against BYU (35-10) and Kentucky (45-7).

Mississippi State (5-2, 2-2) is now one win away from bowl eligibility after going 5-7 last season. The difference is the defense under new coordinator Todd Grantham. Last season the Bulldogs were 110th in total defense. Now they are No. 8 (281.3 ypg).

And here’s the thing: If Mississippi State can win on the road at Texas A&M (5-2, 3-1) this Saturday the Bulldogs’s schedule is set up for a strong finish. Their final four games are with UMass, Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss. I’m not a betting man but I believe they win three of their final four and Dan Mullen becomes one of the hottest coaches in the country.

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