No. 2 Alabama pulled away from South Carolina in the second half to top the Gamecocks 47-23 at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was 28-of-36 passing for 444 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions. He now has eight games with four or more touchdown passes -- breaking AJ McCarron's previous record of seven.
Tagovailoa found a new target, too. Running back Najee Harris caught two of those touchdown passes -- the first two touchdown receptions of the junior's career.
South Carolina freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski did all he could to keep the Gamecocks in the game, going 36-of-57 passing for 324 yards and two touchdowns. Since taking over for Jake Bentley following the opener, the four-star prospect in the Class of 2019 has lived up to the recruiting hype.
What did we learn on Saturday afternoon in Columbia?
1. Welcome back, Tua: The Heisman Trophy runner up has largely flown under the radar this year thanks to an easy early-season schedule and the emergence of Jalen Hurts at Oklahoma, Justin Fields at Ohio State and Joe Burrow at LSU. This was his re-coming out party.
With the stage all to himself in the 2019 debut of the SEC on CBS, Tagovailoa made it look easy, and spread the ball around to all of his star wide receivers, including DeVonta Smith (136 yards) and Henry Ruggs III (122 yards).
More importantly, the advice coach Nick Saban gave him all offseason has clearly registered. Saban told his star quarterback to take a profit when the home run isn't there. Even though Tagovailoa went to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony, he had too many instances of taking shots deep when the smarter throw was underneath.
Does that put him on top of the Heisman Trophy list? There are so many stars in this sport, it's impossible to say right now. But the forgotten star is now shining bright yet again.
2. There's really no way to stop the Crimson Tide offense: Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian came back to Tuscaloosa with little fanfare after running the ship in the national title game loss to Clemson after the 2016 season.
Now he looks like a genius.
Granted, it's not that hard to get the ball in the hands of the best receiving corps in the country, but he's not trying to outthink the room anymore. Things are running so smoothly that Tagovailoa could potentially walk to the line of scrimmage, yell "slant," and the defense wouldn't be able to do anything about it.
What's even scarier is that a new target has surfaced with Harris emerging as a weapon in the passing game.
Alabama isn't just one step ahead of the defense. It defines the direction of those steps every time out.
3. Ryan Hilinski is going to be a star: It's way too much to ask a true freshman quarterback making just his second start to slay the dragon and topple the Tide. Hilinski did his best, though.
He was in full control of the offense the entire time, made smart decisions with the football, checked down when it was appropriate and looked like a veteran who has been through the SEC wars before.
Hilinski already proved that he's an upgrade from senior Jake Bentley, who was injured in the season-opening loss to North Carolina.
Two games into the season, it's time to stop referring to him as a "future star." Even in the loss, he stood strong against the Tide and showed that he's a weapon, not a liability. He's the foundation of a South Carolina program that is on the rise despite the negative reputation coach Will Muschamp brought with him after four seasons at Florida from 2011-14.
4. Muschamp emptied the tank: It was clear from the outset that South Carolina was going to pull out all of the stops to try to find anything to have a chance to stay in the game.
Down 7-3 in the first quarter, the Gamecocks lined up for a field goal after going three-and-out. Hilinski took the snap as the holder and tossed it over head to kicker Parker White, who strolled into the end zone. But a holding call negated the touchdown, and wasted a play Muschamp was saving for the right time.
In the second quarter, Muschamp called a fake punt on fourth-and-5 from his own 31-yard line down 24-10. Wide receiver Shi Smith was stopped after a short gain, and the Gamecocks gave the ball back.
Muschamp's game management wasn't exactly stellar, either.
Running back Rico Dowdle extended for a touchdown from four yards out with under 30 seconds to play, but was ruled down shortly before the end zone. It was likely the right call, but Muschamp was clearly unhappy that it wasn't reviewed.
"I'll get fined for the rest of my life if I comment on that," he said on the CBS broadcast going into halftime.
He might not have been so angry had he not gone for it on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard-line instead of taking the field goal. That decision does fall in line with the theme of the night for Muschamp, who clearly was laying it all out there.
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