Alabama football: This is Joyless Murderball at its finest
There is a certain beauty to complex machines. Whether it is something huge like the Boeing 747 or small like an Omega Speedmaster, the combination of precision and reliability is a wonder to behold.
So, too, is the machine known as Alabama football. Designed by birthday boy Nick Saban and engineered to the exact tolerances that would make a Swiss horologist nod in approval, the 2020 version of the Crimson Tide again displayed their signature brand of Joyless Murderball to destroy the notion, for the time being, that Mike Leach will be a factor at Mississippi State.
This was a beating, not unlike Mike Tyson’s early knockout binge before Tokyo and Buster Douglas. This was soulless destruction, like Darth Vader envisioned with the Death Star against the Rebel Alliance.
And when it was all said and done, Saturday night’s 41-0 victory by the second-ranked Crimson Tide only served further notice that there really isn’t anything the rest of the conference can do about the whippings that are arranged in the weeks to come.
Perhaps the nine Mississippi State players who have bolted Starkville in the past couple of weeks had the right idea. While it could be supposed that Leach has been purging “malcontents” in his quest to remake Mississippi State into a contender, Saturday night was a 60-minute example of just how far off that quest really is.
Alabama sliced and diced the Bulldogs virtually from the jump. DeVonta Smith was such a problem for Mississippi State’s secondary that it seemed more like the strategy was “take 15-yard pass interference penalties instead of allowing longer touchdown passes.” Unfortunately for the cowbell-ringing populace 83 miles to the northwest, Smith was such a force Saturday that he still torched Londyn Craft down the sideline for a 35-yard score.
That TD connection would be a highlight-reel play for most wide receivers. But for Smith, it was simply “the beginning” of a monster half. The Tide defense forced a quick 3-and-out to put the ball back in quarterback Mac Jones’ hands, and Smith taught Craft another lesson on a 50-yard double-move touchdown for a 17-0 lead.
Smith wasn’t content with that, though. The future NFL first-rounder offered Emmanuel Forbes a harsh lesson with a crisper-than-crisp slant route for an 11-yard touchdown catch late in the second quarter — culminating a 27-point half for the Tide and a 9-catch, 159-yard first-half effort for Smith.
Alabama’s defense, meanwhile, seemed a distant memory from whatever that was against Ole Miss three weeks ago. Bulldogs quarterback K.J. Costello was running for his life for much of the first half before an inadvertent knee to the head at the end of a scramble attempt sent him to the locker room with an apparent concussion. Costello’s replacement, Will Rogers, was only marginally more effective and ended with 147 passing yards. The Bulldogs finished with just 200 offensive yards against Alabama’s 499.
In the opening 30 minutes alone, Alabama piled up 337 yards to Mississippi State’s 38. Smith had 3 times as many touchdown receptions (3) as the Bulldogs had first downs. And Najee Harris was a bruising change of pace from the Jones-to-Smith show en route to 84 rushing yards on 15 carries in the half.
While the second half was much more subdued than the first, Smith just kept on chugging — catching his fourth TD pass early in the fourth quarter to bring him level with Amari Cooper in career Alabama TD receptions with 31, and finishing his evening with 11 receptions for 203 yards.
Surely there are those in the SEC who see all this and think to themselves, “When will this ever end at Alabama?” And that’s a great question without a glimmer of an answer.
Pundits thought this could be a week where there might show a crack in the concrete, as electrifying wide receiver Jaylen Waddle was in a golf cart on the home sideline following season-ending ankle surgery. But at Alabama, it takes little more than plug-and-play to get a player like John Metchie III an increased role in the offensive scheme. (Camera-cut to Waddle shaking his head in amazement when either Smith or Metchie makes another eye-popping play.)
Making matters better/worse (depending on your perspective), there doesn’t appear to be a Luke Skywalker-led Alliance out there in the SEC this season. Georgia was billed for that co-starring role, before the Crimson Tide decimated those Bulldogs 41-24 earlier in October to extend the jinx Kirby Smart can’t shake against his former employer.
LSU in two weeks? Coach Ed Orgeron seems more content chilling in a hot tub with a younger blonde than with wrangling the defending national champions into respectability.
Auburn? This year’s Iron Bowl is in Tuscaloosa, which means the officiating voodoo the Tigers seem to conjure at will inside Jordan-Hare will be harder to muster.
Florida? Shoot, Missouri was giving the Gators all they could handle, going 15 rounds in a bench-clearing brawl at the same time the Death Star was pew-pewing laser beams in Tuscaloosa.
Although there are no mountains left to climb for Alabama, that doesn’t mean Saban won’t be strapping up his Sherpas in crimson and white every week to make the trek. Machines don’t rest, after all. They don’t take days off and they don’t feel pain.
Boeing 747s were built to fly. Omega Speedmasters were assembled to keep precise time. The 2020 Alabama Crimson Tide was concocted to seek and destroy within the toughest conference in college football en route to yet another College Football Playoff.
That’s what machines do.
This is Joyless Murderball.