The rulers of college football have tried mightily to take the drudgery out of the game.

They have shortened halftime, commercial breaks and (thankfully) Lou Holtz' time on the air.

They need a mercy rule.

Alabama won again -- 58-21 over Tennessee Saturday -- in a game in which it could have played walk-ons after halftime and still prevailed by double digits. Further east, much breath was wasted trying to drum up interest in No. 3 Clemson playing the No. 16 team in the nation.

Instead, North Carolina State played like the bottom team in the ACC in losing 41-7 at Death Valley.

For now, put No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Clemson both in the College Football Playoff. Yup, Tigers-Tide IV looms like a thunderstorm on the horizon.

Look, I could blow smoke at you and try to create some false sense of drama. There isn't much left for either of these teams.

The Tigers now play exactly zero currently ranked teams the rest of the season. Alabama gets a week off before a trip to LSU on Nov. 3. I'm starting to wonder whether it matters if the Tide win. Would you drop them out of the top four if they lose a close game in Death Valley?

The potential wrinkle in Ohio State? The Buckeyes sputtered their chances in West Lafayette on Saturday night.

The only concern Saturday may have been summed up by CBS analyst Gary Danielson. He wondered aloud why Tua Tagovailoa even started the second half with the Tide up 42-14.

The best reason Danielson could come up with: "Let's try to get you ready for second-half adjustments."

That's what it has come to for Alabama, managing Tua's exposure to … football. He goes into the LSU game having not taken a snap in the fourth quarter. That's the equivalent of missing two games.

Never mind the last Heisman Trophy winner to so much as miss a game was Florida State's Charlie Ward 25 years ago, Tagovailoa has basically missed two because his games were already decided.

The biggest game of the season is looming. But so is a fourth quarter Tagovailoa has never played in.

Will it matter? We'll see. Tua started the Tennessee game having recovered from a sprained knee. It took him standing in to take a hit so he could launch a 41-yard scoring pass up by 30 to get him out of the game.

Tagovailoa was leveled by a Vols lineman while he connected with Henry Ruggs.

Was it worth it?

That might be the biggest question remaining question from a 37-point win: Is Nick playing his best player too much?

I'm not going there except to reiterate we're watching the greatest dynasty in the sport's history. Better than Miami's, better than Oklahoma's in the 1950s. Better because Saban shows no signs to slowing down. His 67th birthday comes in 10 days.

Meanwhile, the man who coached up Alabama's national championship defense last year (Jeremy Pruitt), was in charge of the Tennessee team that allowed the most points in the 118-year history of the series.

And the rout didn't seem intentional. Tennessee's Kyle Phillips knocked down a bunch of Alabama tacklers returning an interception for a touchdown. The Vols may have found their best quarterback (Keller Chryst who threw for 164 yards and two touchdowns).

Tennessee got embarrassed, but who hasn't playing Alabama this season? The Tide could have scored 70.

Can we just fast forward to Clemson-Bama … again? The two programs have gathered the best talent in the South, and most likely in the country.

They have won their games by a combined 406 points. That's excellence. For some of us, that's also drudgery.