Wiedmer: Tide perfect in more ways than one

Wiedmer: Tide perfect in more ways than one

October 27th, 2013 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Alabama defensive back Landon Collins (26) returns and interception 89 yards for a touchdown as Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley (14) pursues during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. Alabama won 45-10.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - There isn't much that's perfect in life. Mona Lisa's smile. Rhapsody in Blue. Hellman's mayonnaise.

But if you roll with the Alabama Crimson Tide, Saturday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium certainly came close. And it wasn't just the 45-10 humbling the nation's No. 1 team laid on Tennessee, though that was pretty near perfect by anyone's standards other than Bama boss Nick Saban.

"We didn't play great in the second half," he said, which is kind of like saying "Rocky II" wasn't as good as "Rocky."

And by Saban's standards he's probably right, especially since the Tide only tied the Vols over the final two quarters at 10-10.

However, the Tide still improved to 8-0 overall and 5-0 within the Southeastern Conference heading into this week's bye weekend, which couldn't come at a more perfect time, since Bama hosts LSU on Nov. 9. The Tide and Tigers both have a week off prior to the SEC's latest game of the year.

Yet unhappy as he may have been about those final 30 minutes, even Saint Nick was forced to admit at halftime, the Tide ahead 35-0: "I was concerned we'd come out a little flat today, but we really came out well on offense."

They came out so well that all three first-quarter possessions produced touchdowns. Fast-forward to the third quarter and that same offense engineered a 98-yard scoring drive as pitch-perfect as Barbra Streisand's voice, a magical blend of 41 rushing yards and 57 passing yards that took all of nine plays and a second less than four minutes.

This is how you win back-to-back national championships and put yourself in prime position for a third, which would also be a fourth in five years, which would be the most perfect run of excellence since Oklahoma once won five titles in one poll or another from 1950 to 1957.

And playing as the Tide did in Saturday's first half, it's hard to imagine any of the other current contenders unseating them -- be it Oregon, Florida State, Ohio State or Missouri -- though anything is possible, especially against LSU.

But that's about the football, about what takes place on the field, the stuff that gets overanalyzed all week on websites and blogs and chatrooms and talk shows and by professional talking heads.

What made Saturday in T-town as perfect as the Statue of Liberty, the sun rising over the seal-laden surf at La Jolla or a slab of Dreamland's ribs was as much about the sun in the sky, the frat boys in blue blazers, neckties and khakis, the turning leaves and the cool breeze as the football.

This is what we love about SEC Saturdays at all 14 campuses. Football matters, but so does the experience of football, from the deviled eggs sitting on someone's car trunk to the spiked punch to Tennessee's Pride of the Southland band perfectly executing its "circle drill" on enemy grass.

That Bama seems to do all this better than most may be one small reason it wins more than most. Holding tight to a tradition built by Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas and Red Drew -- a tradition that became like no other under Paul "Bear" Bryant and may actually have been made untouchable by Saban -- only adds to both the lore and the allure.

How perfect was this win in football terms? The 35-point margin ties the second largest in the 95th or 96th game between the two (the two schools display different totals). That's after former coach Derek Dooley, the man the Big Orange Nation couldn't wait to get rid of, lost to the Tide by exactly 31 points all three seasons. So the football's big, and the football's why Bryant-Denny Stadium not only has grown to more than 100,000 seats but may now be the most impressive stadium in the land.

And much as Bama fans might swear otherwise, it won't last forever, this latest era Crimson superiority. Saban will eventually retire or relocate, quite possibly as early as next year, to that other UT way down south in Texas, the one whose orange runs more burnt than pale, its bank vaults reportedly far larger than those in the Heart of Dixie.

It is one thing to possibly be a better football coach than Bryant, which is now an arguable point, especially if the Tide win their fourth national title in five years come January. It is another thing to supplant Bear, or even earn equal footing in the hearts and souls of the Tide Nation, which still embraces all things houndstooth 30 years after Bryant's death.

So one day, hard as it will be to accept, some new coach or new athletic director or new marketing maven at Nike will decide it's a good idea to change the timeless uniforms. They might even quit beginning every home game with Bear's grand and gravelly voice over the loudspeaker.

Then the frat boys will quit wearing blazers and khakis, the sorority sisters will box up their cotton dresses and Saturday afternoons around T-town will start to resemble those with far less lofty legacies, another huge slice of what makes SEC football special sadly lost.

But against the Vols, the air cool and the Tide hot, time stood still and perfect. Or as Bama wideout Kevin Norwood said, "It was just one of those nights when everything was clicking."

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com