Heading into Saturday there were two teams creeping up on third-ranked Alabama.
Two teams yearning for the respect that both felt was being denied them.
Now that Saturday has passed, it was clear that the respect they sought was justified in being withheld, as both Stanford and Boise State fell.
The Broncos, once again, were victim to a last-second field-goal miss, while the Cardinal was thrashed on their home field by Oregon.
Both of those teams were eliminated from the national title picture and, worst yet, possibly their respective conference championships.
Alabama, on the other hand, resumed business as usual, using their relentless defense to guide them back to victory after last week's loss to LSU.
So what else needs to happen for Alabama to find its way back into the national championship game?
First, simply, they have to win—judging their final two opponents, that is completely doable.
Georgia Southern is no threat, and let's be real here. Auburn is a team Alabama should dismantle regardless of where the Iron Bowl is being played this season.
Second, Oklahoma State needs to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten. Any possibility of a second team from Oklahoma losing to Texas Tech was squashed as the Cowboys just destroyed Tommy Tubberville's team, 66-6.
Oklahoma State appears to be driven, but can they beat Oklahoma to finish out their season?
Getting back to Alabama, the Tide handled Mississippi State in a rather ugly game.
The Alabama kicking game continued its woeful ways in Starkville, going 1-3 on field goals, missing their first two attempts. If you're keeping score at home, the Crimson Tide kickers are a combined three for their last nine. It's already cost them a game, but will it cost them anything else?
Defensively, Alabama was on fire. They held the Bulldogs to 12 yards rushing. Mississippi State had been averaging just less than 170 yards per game. It didn't matter which quarterback it was, which formation they used, or tailback, Alabama was not yielding yardage on the ground Saturday night.
That low rushing total was aided by Alabama's five sacks for negative-33 yards. An offense is doomed to failure when the Crimson Tide defenders are able to set up camp in your backfield for the evening.
Offensively, Alabama's offense was sluggish at best.
The unit suffered without the presence of Barrett Jones, who was held out with an ankle injury he sustained last week against LSU. The line held its own, but wasn't able to get its usual push until late in the game when Mississippi State was worn down.
They did not give up a single sack and, despite that statistic, A.J. McCarron seemed to be off for the second game in a row. He misfired on a number of open routes and made a terrible decision late in the first half and was picked off by MSU's C. Lawrence. McCarron made up for it by making a touchdown-saving tackle. The Bulldogs failed to get any points off of the turnover.
Trent Richardson was held in check until the second half, as the tired Bulldogs defense was no match. He had over 150 total yards and one touchdown, which is a stellar evening, but with Andrew Luck losing to Oregon, he failed to have the type of night that would have catapulted him to the top of the Heisman list.
Richardson's Heisman hopes appear to be in doubt barring two monster performances in the final two games, but I doubt he sees enough time against Georgia Southern to see that happen. Barring an Arkansas upset of LSU, it is unlikely he'll get the benefit of an extra marquee game in Atlanta to boost his award efforts like Mark Ingram did two years ago.
There was one disturbingly strange moment for me Saturday evening. It came in the third quarter when Alabama was facing a 4th-and-1 at the 50-yard line. Alabama elected to quarterback sneak it with McCarron and was stuffed, turning it over to the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State failed to do anything with that field position, as they were stopped on a fourth down attempt of their own—for me, the choice of using a quarterback sneak in that situation is a head-scratcher. Why would you not hand the ball off to Trent or Eddie? Trent can move a whole pile five yards on his own, and there is no doubt in my mind that Lacy would have scratched out the few inches needed.
Alabama's offensive production under Jim McElwain has been quite good, but he often times makes decisions against the obvious that seem to be too cute for their own good.
With all that said, Alabama is right where it wants to be in their current scenario.
The question is, will the final domino fall and position the Crimson Tide for their much-coveted rematch with LSU?
The next few weeks are going to be very interesting.
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