john-metchie-devonta-smith-alabama-georgia-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

Don't call it a comeback. Not with Nick Saban beating a virus he never had. Not even at halftime when No. 2 Alabama trailed No. 3 Georgia 24-20 in the game of the (very weird) year.

Those Alabama wide receivers, they were the constant Saturday night. They were always there running circles, streaks and -- what Kirby Smart said was -- at least one bubble wheel and rocket motion route with deadly efficiency.

Someday soon, senior DeVonta Smith, junior Jaylen Waddle and sophomore John Metchie III will have a collective, catchy nickname. For now, just call them the best unit in college football.

That is not insignificant when offense has taken over the game and Alabama entered Saturday having taken over the title of having the best-scoring offense in college football.

After sprinkling his four touchdown passes among the three wideouts in a 41-24 win, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones described the feeling this way: "Just throwing it up to those guys, if it's one-on-one, they'll make the play."

That's what it looked like most of the night. When Saban unleashed the his frisbee-catching hounds, the nation's No. 2 overall defense was humbled. Waddle (six catches, 161 yards), a Preseason All-America selection, gave Alabama the lead to for good by catching a bomb and housing it for a 90-yard touchdown behind air-grasping Georgia cornerback Tyson Campbell in the third quarter.

Metchie announced himself with 181 receiving yards against Texas A&M a couple of weeks ago. The native of Taiwan caught Jones' second pass of the night for a 40-yard touchdown. (Jones' first was an interception.) Smith has been targeted 27 times in the last two games by Jones, catching 24 of those throws. That included a pair of touchdown passes in an 11-reception, 167-yard performance Saturday night.

Smith might be the most well-known of the three after catching the national championship-winning touchdown pass from Tua Tagovailoa in overtime as a freshman.

"When a guy looks at you in your eyes and says, 'Throw the ball to me. I don't care if I'm triple-covered, throw it to me,' it's hard to turn that down," Jones said of Smith. "He's a [Michael] Jordan-level competitor."

Alabama's Heisman Trophy hype may center on Jones because, in replacing Tagovailoa, he became the first Alabama quarterback to pass for 400-plus yards in three straight games Saturday. Meanwhile, it's hard to single out the team's best receiver. Smith, Waddle and Metchie have combined to catch 77 of Jones' 90 completions.

Clemson may have the best team in the nation. Georgia may have earned a rematch in the SEC Championship Game. But gosh darn it, Alabama's triplets comprise the best set of receivers in college football -- one season after Saban lost Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy in the first round of the NFL Draft.

"I don't know that it's new," Smart said. "When they had Tua, they were really explosive, they had a bunch of great receivers."

Now?

"It's probably the strength of our team," Saban said. "These receivers are special."

This is what Alabama is these days. The explosive plays come with regularity. The Crimson Tide is in the top 10 among Power Five teams in that category. Seven of their 43 explosive plays this season (runs of 12+ yards, completions of 18+ yards) came Saturday night.

"We gotta play better as a secondary," veteran Georgia safety Richard LeCounte said.

The Dawgs had to know it would be a shootout. It's top-tier defense was raked. With 564 yards, Alabama more than doubled the average allowance of Georgia's D, which had been giving up 236 yards per game. The Bulldogs offense that was so efficient in the first half was outscored 21-0 in the second half.

Remember that the next time these teams meet. Alabama has trailed at halftime in all three of Smart's battles with his former boss. Alabama has then outscored Georgia 71-17 in the second half and overtime in coming back to win all three games.

Stetson Bennett IV is counting on the Dawgs to run it back. Georgia's quarterback threw three interceptions and can only hope for an SEC Championship Game rematch.

"That's what everybody was saying in the locker room. Our destiny is still controlled by us, which is how you want it," Bennett said. "If we win out, we'll probably see those guys … we'll be in SEC championship if we win out."

That would be quite a recovery. Saban's was another version. The 68-year-old coach found out Wednesday he tested positive for COVID-19. Over the course of three days, we lived with the daily drama of Saban receiving three subsequent negative tests (five, actually) and being cleared to coach in the game with the initial test being deemed a false positive by the SEC's protocol.

The only way his entrance to Bryant-Denny Stadium would have been bigger would be if he was lowered from a helicopter at the 50-yard line by Vince McMahon. We can kid now. The great coach was asymptomatic all week and watched his team's practices via live stream from his house.

"It was very emotional for me," Saban said of the COVID-19 experience. "I think I gained a lot of respect thinking I had this. … Everybody should have the proper respect because when they tell you [that] you tested positive, that's not a good feeling."

Smart was preparing for a battle regardless. Even if he wasn't on the sideline, the result would have gone on Saban's record. Saban is now 22-0 against his former assistants and 6-1 against Georgia since coming to Alabama.

"First off, I'm glad he's healthy," Smart said. "Anytime anybody thinks they may have COVID, that's a concern, especially somebody his age. I don't wish that on anybody. I knew the whole time he was going to be able to coach because  … we knew it was a false positive."

Really? Wow, that's scouting.

Some of it should have been saved for Alabama's receivers.