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UF dismantling proves Tide's a lock for national title game


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Great day of football around the country.

Michigan's Denard Robinson went for almost 500 yards against Indiana.

Oregon and Stanford combined for 1,129 yards against each other.

Tennessee was undone by the little known half-of-Knoxville-on-the-field penalty against LSU.

New Mexico State was done before it took the field against the Boise State.

And then Alabama reminded us how meaningless it all was.

"That," Nick Saban said, "is what we've been waiting on."

That was his halftime statement on CBS. It was also an understatement.

Using the Alabama coach's view of the world, yeah, the Tide finally got it right. It took a while. After 19 consecutive victories, a Heisman and a national championship it's good to know Alabama might have a little something going.

Using the world view of Alabama's 31-6 win over No. 7 Florida? Nice effort, nation. You had your chance. Might as well fast forward to Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz. I know one team that's going to be there. The rest of ya'll can fight it out amongst yourselves.

This was arguably the game of the day, maybe the game of the year for the Tide. And they handed Urban Meyer one of the worst losses of his career. Part of the build up for this game was the fall back. For the loser there was a possible rematch in December in the SEC championship game? After seeing his team gutted, Meyer was thinking aisle seat Saturday night.

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"We're thinking about getting in the plane and safely getting back home and seeing our families," he said.

The safety of Gainesville won't keep Florida from the obvious. The rest of the country is playing for second place at this point. That doesn't mean Alabama will win another championship. It just means there's no one playing even close to their level. There was a pinball game in Eugene (Oregon 52, Stanford 31) that harkened back to the Pac-10 days of the past when defense was just a suggestion. There was a woodshedding here harkening back to ... last year.

Remember that defense that lost nine starters? Alabama has allowed 45 points in five games. The opposition hasn't scored a second-half touchdown. Remember three new starters in the secondary? There have been 11 interceptions on the season, six in the last two weeks, three more Saturday. Ryan Mallett was reduced to ruins at Arkansas. The entire Florida offense was bullied into submission this time.

Florida's John Brantley is going to be a fine quarterback just not when he's running the option. Anything that runs parallel to the line against this defense is meat.

"They're not there yet," former 'Bama great Shaun Alexander said of his Tide as he left Bryant-Denny Stadium. "They could be a monster."

Could be?

Alexander has this interesting theory. This Alabama team, he says, plays with more confidence than last year's. That team thought it could do it. This one knows it. Saban has kept the accomplished hungry by creating competition. The defense keeps driving because it can't possibly be as good as last season's unit. Except that it's headed that way.

Heisman winner Mark Ingram pushes himself because he hears how good sophomore Trent Richardson is all the time. Ingram scored twice, the second time in the second quarter after Richardson had busted a 15-yard run to the Florida 8.

"Thank you," Ingram told Richardson when he got back to the sideline, "that was really your touchdown."

They think of themselves as a pair, a unit. They've even come up with a title for themselves: Fast and the Furious.

"You always love when a team [isn't satisfied]," Alexander said. "I think it's competition. It's amazing. It's people trying to prove things. That's the most dangerous athlete there is. It's one that has to compete for his job."

Saturday, then, has to be a season landmark. Alabama isn't full of itself, at all. It became only the fourth team in the last 44 years to play consecutive AP top 10 teams in consecutive weeks. A third consecutive matchup against a ranked team looms next week at South Carolina but the concern has to be much less. That now makes two Florida butt whippings in 10 months. The Gators are no closer to beating Alabama now than it was with Tim Tebow in December. That was a fitting salute, though, when Trey Burton threw a jump pass on fourth from the Bama 2 on Florida's first possession. The resulting Nico Johnson interception made certain things evident.

There should have been no questioning Meyer going for it on fourth down (instead of kicking the tying field goal). But by calling a gimmicky play, Florida showed Alabama and itself it didn't have the personnel or the will to attempt to pound it up the middle from 2 yards. Even if the Gators were stopped, Alabama would have had to go almost the length of the field. Instead Burton's pass was tipped and nestled into Johnson's arms.

"It's like a trademark with Florida, especially with Tebow," 'Bama linebacker Dont'a Hightower said of the jump pass.

Except that Tebow is gone and Burton fell six touchdowns short of the six touchdowns he had last week against Kentucky.

Maybe the biggest news was that Saban sounded something close to satisfied.

"I don't think about it as satisfaction," he said. "I think about it as the way we played, the passion that we played with, and lots of enthusiasm and energy. Last year our team kind of did that as a matter of fact."

This team?

"We haven't put together a 60-minute game yet," Ingram said. "Once we do that it will be tough to beat us."

Keep telling yourself that, Mark. For everyone else, the game, SEC race and, maybe the national championship, is over.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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