There’s a popular saying in the soccer world: “It’s the hope that kills you.”
Following a miserable team is easy — you’re pretty certain your team will lose, and if they don’t, well, that’s great. You adjust to hopelessness, and you get on with it. No, what really hurts is aspiration and potential and having something to lose.
I bring this up to accentuate the special kind of cruelty that was Alabama’s 49-10 evisceration of Tennessee on Saturday. Judging by the dozen or so conversations I had with Tennessee fans last week, this was, as they say, their year. One 10-year losing streak to a rival down, one to go. Even if, injuries considered, the result didn’t break their way, this was a a chance to show their conferential bona fides, to go toe-to-toe with the King.
Instead, Alabama ran the ball for 438 yards to Tennessee’s 32, passed for 156 more, held their famous running quarterback to net minus-31 rushing yards, ran back a punt and an interception for touchdowns, and did this:
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) October 15, 2016
It’s the biggest margin of victory in the series in 110 years, and now Tennessee is tied with Kentucky for second place in its division. The Volunteers need to win out and Florida to lose to have a shot at the SEC championship, where they will most likely meet … Alabama. I think most Alabama fans would prefer to avoid a rematch, when the x-factor of rivalry games tends to get even more variable, but a 39-point deficit would be a hefty disparity for Tennessee to overturn, even with everyone healthy.
What they’re saying nationally
- ESPN’s Heather Dinich: the undefeated, top-ranked, defending national champion’s stock is rising.
- SBNation’s Steven Godfrey assesses the advisability of a Tennessee-Alabama rematch, considering the complete beatdown we all just saw.
- Sports Illustrated’s Colin Becht: Alabama is far-and-away the No. 1 team.
- The seven rudest things about Alabama’s visit to Tennessee’s house, from SBNation’s Jason Kirk.
- NCAA.com has a helmet sticker for Jalen Hurts, who “may be the biggest play-making threat under center that Nick Saban has had at his disposal.”
- Sporting News’ Bill Bender: Alabama looks as unstoppable as ever.
- George Schroeder at USA Today: Alabama’s defensive touchdown streak stems from a leaner, faster defense.
- ESPN’s Chris Low: Alabama is like a new, sleeker, still-terrifying Godzilla.
- Dennis Dodd at CBS: Epic doesn’t begin to describe No. 1 Alabama.
- ESPN’s SEC power rankings put Alabama and Texas A&M at the top.
Hurts for Heisman?
The whispers started after the narrow victory at Ole Miss. By now they’ve swelled into full-blown chatter. Is Jalen Hurts a Heisman contender? Here’s SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker wondering. Gil Brandt of NFL.com is backing him. Dieter Kurtenbach at Fox Sports says he “deserves some love.” One of his touchdown runs is apparently even “Heisman-like,” whatever that means.
Jalen Hurts needs a little more Heisman love.
— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) October 15, 2016
Let’s be frank: Hurts will not win the Heisman Trophy.
First, he is a true freshman. No true freshman has ever won the award, and only two redshirt freshmen have: Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston. Those players were transformational talents, considered the best in the country from wire to wire in their respective Heisman seasons. Hurts is incredibly talented, but he isn’t 2012 Manziel. Manziel alone had two 500-plus yard games, and had a signature late-season win to hang his hat on: beating Alabama at home. Coincidentally, Hurts’ only real shot at a Heisman moment will come against Texas A&M this week. After that, the schedule is too open for him to assert himself.
Second, the Heisman Trophy is won in November. Alabama’s schedule in November is at LSU and home to Mississippi State, UT-Chattanooga and Auburn. None of those games present enough of a challenge while J.T. Barrett at Ohio State will be hosting Nebraska and Michigan.
Third, the Heisman winner usually has a certain put-the-team-on-his-back air about him. Derrick Henry won the award partially because he carried the ball 600 times a game. Hurts is working with soon-to-be NFL tight end O.J. Howard, former next-Amari-Cooper Calvin Ridley, first-tier running back Damien Harris and ax-toting ArDarius Stewart, to say nothing of the historic defense that gives him all the margin in the world to work with.
Hurts is an excellent quarterback. When all is said and done, he will go down among the greats in Alabama history at his position — if not the greatest. He may even win the Heisman Trophy. But not this year.
Closer to home
- From BamaOnline’s Charlie Potter, a breakdown of Alabama’s statistical rankings. Most notably, Alabama jumped from 20th to 10th in rushing offense in just one game.
- Bleacher Report’s Chris Walsh: It’s time to talk about Jalen Hurts as a Heisman contender.
- Potter also is charting Alabama’s use of freshmen this season.
- Duane Rankin at the Montgomery Advertiser has five takeaways from Saturday’s game, including some well-earned credit to Shaun Dion Hamilton.
- A look at the defense’s scoring streak and a defensive backs-only meeting from The Tuscaloosa News’ Tommy Deas.
- AL.com’s Rainer Sabin’s four surprises from the beatdown on Saturday and a look at Alabama’s dominance on third down.
- From his colleague Matt Zenitz, Jalen Hurts is very good and the anatomy of a pick six.
- AL.com’s Kevin Scarbinsky: This is starting to look dangerously like Saban’s best team.
— Brandon Kamerman (@B_Kamerman) October 15, 2016
For those unversed in the Million Dollar Band’s best practices, a third repetition of Rammer Jammer is reserved for only the most satisfying of regular-season victories — Auburn, LSU and Tennessee, mostly. The standard is two.
Around the Capstone
- The women’s cross country team ran away with the Crimson Classic. Get it?
- Soccer beat Georgia for the fourth consecutive year.
- Volleyball avenged an earlier loss to Mississippi State but lost to Mizzou on Sunday.
- Women’s golf finished second at the Tar Heel Invitational.
- Men’s tennis sputtered to the finish at the ITA regional championships.
AL.com’s weekly SEC Shorts envisions an Alabama fan using Tennessee fans’ faces to follow the game.
And our weekly installation from FunnyMaine features a touching cross-rivalry gesture.
— FunnyMaine (@FunnyMaine) October 16, 2016
— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) October 17, 2016
- The Raiders still lost.
- Eddie Lacy ran for 65 yards on 17 carries and hurdled a man in Green Bay’s loss to Dallas.
- Julio Jones had 7 catches for 139 yards and was probably interfered with on the crucial last play of the game. Atlanta still lost.
- Mark Ingram had 16 carries for 51 yards and 2 catches for 9 yards in the Saints’ win over Carolina.
- Derrick Henry had 2 catches for 20 yards in Tennessee’s narrow win over Cleveland.