In Year 14 of the Nick Saban era, achievement has reached the point of ridiculousness. The level of excellence at Alabama is now to the point where it must be compared to itself.
If the current 49.5-point per game average holds, No. 1 Alabama would set a team scoring record for the third year in a row. In the first half alone, the Crimson Tide are averaging a lead of nearly 20 points. They are outgaining teams by 200 yards. It's been six years since a national champion had a higher victory margin than Alabama's 32.7 points.
Maybe that's assuming too much -- that Bama will win another championship, --so let's be more honest and modest. Heading into Saturday's SEC Championship Game against No. 7 Florida, this is arguably the most dominant team of that Saban era. Maybe longer.
Three legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates have emerged after Saban lost his best wide receiver, Jaylen Waddle, to injury on Oct. 24. (They are quarterback Mac Jones, DeVonta Smith and Najee Harris.) Since about midseason, a slow-starting defense has played at a level equal statistically to the top five teams in the country.
"It's pretty wild when you think about they might have the best wide receiver, best offensive line, best running back and perhaps the quarterback in the country," former Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones said. "That's pretty crazy."
How's that for rat poison?
"He hates rat poison," Jones said of his former coach.
We know. But here goes anyway.
Alabama is a 17-point favorite over a team that looks a lot like the Tide. The Gators have their own Heisman candidate in Kyle Trask and a likely All-America tight end in Kyle Pitts. If there is a team that matches up with Alabama -- even after that horrible LSU loss -- Florida is it.
Ah, who are we kidding? What we are witnessing is Saban's full transformation in how he wins. When he brought in Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator in 2014, it was an admission that Alabama had to retool offensively. It has done more than that. The Tide have become the offensive standard with their spread and RPO concepts. Not just in the SEC. In the country.
"You remember how crazy we all thought he was when he hired Lane Kiffin?" asked Jones, one of the Tide's all-time best linemen. "We were like, 'What are you doing? Lane Kiffin?!' That changed everything. They went from lagging behind to complaining about the hurry-up offense to being pioneers in a lot of ways.
"And now people watch Alabama's tape for innovation."
This is a team that lost two first-round picks at receiver (Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy) and a former Heisman finalist quarterback (Tua Tagovailoa) only to get better. When Waddle went down, Smith took over running verticals over the top of helpless secondaries. The guy throwing to him, Jones, is off to a better start after 10 games than Tagovailoa if only because Tua never made it to 10 games in 2019 because of that hip injury.
The connective tissue is the latest offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, who is being mentioned for college and NFL head coaching jobs. Saban even has a kicker Will Reichard who hasn't missed (11 of 11). Reichard is little used on field goals because of an offense that leads the country with 66 touchdowns and converts more than 90% of the time in the red zone.
Just don't suggest to Saban this might be his best team. For him, the standard remains 2009, his only undefeated team at Bama (14-0). That group featured Heisman winner Mark Ingram and six draft choices on defense.
"That's the only team that went undefeated, so I guess their accomplishment becomes the standard," Saban said.
That standard slipped last season. Alabama's 11 wins were the fewest since 2013. The two losses were by a total of eight points to LSU and Auburn. But that was enough.
"To me, the single most impressive characteristic is adaptability," Jones said of Saban. "There are so many coaches over the years who had small runs of greatness, but they couldn't extend it because they weren't adaptable. They weren't looking for what was next."
A few weeks ago, Saban jarred college football when he told ESPN, "Good defense doesn't beat good offense anymore."
The grandmaster of defense finally admitted what the game had become. LSU proved it last year with the third-worst defense in history to win a national championship. Those Tigers had a load of receivers and a Heisman winner (Joe Burrow) at quarterback. And that was enough.
Try to pick your Heisman moment at Alabama. For the first time last week against Arkansas, Jones did not complete a pass of at least 20 yards. No worries, since there had been 52 such completions -- third among Power Five schools -- going into that game. Harris leads the country in rushing touchdowns (22). He is among only nine backs to rush for 1,000 yards. When Alabama needed to run out the clock against Georgia, Harris carried 14 times for 59 yards in the fourth quarter alone. The unit Harris runs behind is the favorite to win the Joe Moore Award that goes to the nation's best offensive line.
"You can talk about his offensive philosophy has changed but also in his back pocket he's got the ability to beat the crap out of you," said CBS Sports analyst Randy Cross. "'If I need to go stone age, I can.'"
Smith's Heisman moment may have come Saturday with a 84-yard punt-return touchdown at Arkansas. He had done everything else already. Smith leads the country in yards receiving, and he's second in receptions. He was already a legend from his freshman year when he caught the national championship-winning touchdown pass against Georgia.
More history awaits. Only two true receivers have won the Heisman -- Charles Woodson and Desmond Howard. Oh, and Smith and Mac Jones are the No. 1 passing combination in the country, too.
"Mac used to go out there and it was like, 'I don't care if you're my teammates or not. I'm fixing to come out here and embarrass you every day,' said Smith, recalling Jones' days as a backup in practice.
On defense, the Tide have gotten smaller and faster since that undefeated 2009 season. This year's defensive line is 21 pounds lighter on average than the 2009 unit. The linebackers average five pounds lighter.
That's an adjustment to the offensive revolution around them. Alabama's total defense numbers are the worst (340 yards per game) since Saban's first year in 2007. But in the last six contests, its 261 yards per game would rank third nationally over a full season.
Remember that adaptability? Back in the day, Saban's defenses could be expected to line up in the 3-4, the same formation favored by his friend Bill Belichick. Now, it's likely that Alabama's defense plays nickel or dime, using extra defensive backs most of the game.
That's the game today.
Here's the bottom line right now: As Saturday approaches, Saban will not let his players drink in that rat poison, er, praise.
"How you finish is what's most important to your legacy as a team," Saban said. "It's not really what we've done to this point, although we're all proud and appreciate the fact the players have done a great job. It's how do you finish. Do you look forward, not backward?"
Alabama vs. Florida in the SEC Championship Game kicks off Saturday at 8 p.m. ET and will air live on CBS, CBSSports.com and the CBS Sports app.