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After punishing Auburn, 'Bama proves it deserves shot at LSU

by | CBSSports.com College Football Insider
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AUBURN, Ala. -- The only unknown now after Alabama whipped Auburn 42-14 is: will the LSU-Alabama sequel be as entertaining as Godfather: Part II or as dreadful as Caddyshack II?

That won't be determined until the teams meet again on Jan. 9 in New Orleans for the BCS title game -- and yes, SEC haters, I'm sorry to say they will meet again. That's because never again is now never before.

Never again was the battle cry for Alabama every single day for the last 365 days since the Crimson Tide's epic collapse to Auburn in last year's Iron Bowl.

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Saturday, the Crimson Tide took out a year's worth of frustration in a defensive domination rarely seen in Iron Bowl history. Last year Alabama led Auburn 21-0 in the first quarter and 24-7 at halftime only to lose 28-27.

"We've been in a bad mood for a year," Alabama left tackle Barrett Jones said.

This time Alabama crushed Auburn by four touchdowns and, yes, it wasn't even that close. To put it in perspective Alabama's domination, early in the fourth quarter Auburn had 44 yards, Alabama had 35 points.

Because of Alabama's impressive showing, the Crimson Tide's never again motto can be replaced with never before. As in never before has two teams from the same conference played in the BCS national title game.

That will change on Jan. 9.

Alabama sophomore right tackle D.J. Fluker said the Crimson Tide deserve a rematch with LSU.

"Yes sir, yes sir we do," Fluker said. "We worked too hard. We deserve it.

"We didn't think about it [before playing Auburn]. But now, yes sir, now we do."

Way back on Oct. 4 -- a month before their first meeting -- I wrote that "it's a very real possibility that LSU and Alabama could play for a second time for the BCS title game in New Orleans."

It turns out I was right. Believe me, I didn't want to be and I don't necessarily want to see a rematch between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama. I've already seen that game.

On Nov. 5, LSU beat Alabama 9-6 in overtime in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Fans of hard-hitting defenses absolutely loved that game. Fans of high-scoring offenses -- who managed to stay awake -- absolutely loathed that game.

Alabama senior center William Vlachos said after the LSU loss he wasn't thinking about a rematch.

"When you lose a game like that with the way that game was built up, you're really not thinking of playing them again and going to the national championship," Vlachos said. "But where we're sitting right now, it's close to being a reality."

Sure, LSU still has to play Georgia in next week's SEC championship game, but the Tigers (12-0) have built up so much credit they could lose that game and still remain among the top two in the final BCS standings.

Alabama, though, didn't have that luxury. The Crimson Tide needed to win and win convincingly. They accomplished both.

Just before kickoff, there may not have been a louder place on Earth than Jordan-Hare Stadium. Even with all that noise, a defensive touchdown and a kickoff return of another score, Auburn (7-5) still was no match for Alabama (11-1).

"We couldn't get much going on offense," Auburn quarterback Clint Moseley said.

Through three quarters, Auburn had only 44 yards of offense and was averaging 1.5 yards per play. The Tigers did slow Alabama's run game early on, but the Crimson Tide -- specifically running back Trent Richardson -- eventually wore down Auburn.

Richardson had 13 yards rushing in the first quarter, 48 yards in the second quarter, 68 yards in the third quarter and 74 yards in the fourth quarter. Add it all up and Richardson finished with a career-high 203 yards and made a legitimate push for the Heisman Trophy.

"To me Trent Richardson is the best football player in the country," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

Richardson made a big statement Saturday. The Crimson Tide made an even bigger one.

"This [win] is a big statement right here," Alabama defensive end Damion Square said. "No doubt about it. No doubt about it. But whoever we see [in the BCS title game] we're going to come to play. Whoever they may be, 'Bama gonna be there."

Yep, 'Bama gonna be there. And so will LSU.

"This team only lost one game in overtime to a very good team that is No. 1 right now," Saban said.

"I would be excited for our team if they had the opportunity to play for the national championship. I think they deserve it and I think they have worked hard. They have all made a tremendous commitment. We didn't do the things that we needed to do in the LSU game to win. If we got another opportunity to play whoever in the national championship it would be great for the University of Alabama."

After hearing that Oregon "threw a party" after watching No. 2 Oklahoma State lose to Iowa State last week and then promptly also lose, Saban didn't allow his players to watch LSU's game with Arkansas Friday. He wanted them only focused on their game and their team. Nothing else.

"We didn't even watch [LSU and Arkansas], we had meetings all day," Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said.

Kirkpatrick said, however, he was confident LSU tuned in to watch Alabama Saturday.

"I'm pretty sure they were watching to see if we would convert over and get another shot at them," Kirkpatrick said. "I hope they're saying 'C'mon on.' "

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, who looked more like Case Keenum in the first quarter (7 of 8, 116 yards, two TDs) than AJ McCarron, said he believes his club deserves a rematch.

"If you're a team in our situation, who wouldn't think they deserve to play in the national championship?" McCarron said.

Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner was a lot more blunt.

"I think," Milliner said, "everyone knows we are the two best teams."

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