Don't ask Najee Harris why he came back to Alabama. Not now, the week of the Georgia game. And definitely don't ask him if he ever considered the potential for injury when he made that decision.
"Why do you want to ask me that question?" Harris said this week. "I don't want to talk about injuries. Any day, any play. You can't really think about that type of stuff, especially being an active athlete. Injuries aren't rare. They can happen from the smallest play. Say what happened in the NFL with Dak [Prescott]. I don't want to answer that question. You can't put that on athlete right now. Knock on wood it doesn't happen."
Harris is coming off the best game of his career --- 206 yards and five rushing touchdowns at Ole Miss. He leads the country in rushing touchdowns (10) and maybe in introspection.
Alabama's star is one of the two best Heisman Trophy-worthy running backs going at the moment. The other is Clemson's Travis Etienne. Both raised eyebrows when they came back for their senior seasons. If you haven't noticed, they're killing it. Etienne is sixth in all-purpose yards, having accounted for 409 total yards the last two weeks.
Harris is one of the best offensive players in the country. That breakout game against Ole Miss proved it. The No. 2 Crimson Tide already have the nation's highest-rated passer (Mac Jones) and one of the country's most explosive receivers (Jaylen Waddle). Harris' emergence made it more of a "triplets" attack.
"We try to be a team where, if some teams try to stop the run, we're going to [pass] the ball," Harris said. "If some teams try to stop the pass with the wideouts, the running backs have to play a part. We try to be an offense where you have to stop both sides.
"We don't even look at the stats. I look at what we have to do to win the game. We don't know what really to expect in the game. Mac is doing a good job of taking the spot of 13 [Tua Tagovailoa]."
This is Harris' week. Ole Miss had more missed arm tackles than points. His five touchdowns against the Rebels were more in one game than 27 teams have scored all season.
All of those accomplishments have to be filtered through the challenge of the day -- getting through the No. 3 Georgia defense.
"When you line up on the opposite side of the ball, it's just straight dudes out there," Harris said. "It's dawgs, really."
Yes, that's a lower-case "dawgs," a different sign of respect for the upper-case Dawgs who bring the nation's second-ranked defense to Alabama. That so-called no-name defense held Tennessee scoreless in the second half last week. The Volunteers running game was less than zero (-1 yard).
"The atmosphere that's been credited on defense here is we're not letting them score," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said.
If you must have names, there is linebacker Monty Rice with 18 tackles and safety Richard LeCounte, who led the Dawgs in tackles two years ago.
That kind of thing can happen for a Georgia defensive back. Smart uses the 3-3-5 "stack" defense, invented by former Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Arkansas defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn.
The stack allows smaller, faster, hybrid players to thrive in areas covered by linebackers and defensive backs.
"Nothing about our defense is going to change … to be the defense at Georgia that's been known for plenty of years, bolting our feet down in the ground and making teams going the long and hard way," LeCounte said.
What you're watching is what Harris was always supposed to be. The five-star standout from California has steadily increased his production. After a 1,224-yard rushing season in 2019 there was an expectation Harris might declare for the NFL Draft. Instead, he became one of four big-time backs to return along with Etienne, Oklahoma State's Chuba Hubbard and Mississippi State's Kylin Hill.
Nick Saban had worked his magic again. Alabama's coach continually talks about underclassmen having to "create value" for themselves by staying in school. That philosophy basically worked again this year. Six of the nine Alabama players drafted in 2020 were underclassmen. Most of those were expected. However, Harris, wide receiver DeVonta Smith and linebacker Dylan Moses (after an injury) were not among them.
"All of us creating more value for ourselves by winning each game," Harris said, "because when you win a game, it brings a lot of national notoriety to all the players, not just one particular player."
No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia will square off Saturday at 8 p.m. ET in the SEC on CBS Game of the Week.