Tide In Position To Have Good Finish

It is gratifying that Alabama remains second in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) standings, but it really isn't critical that the Tide is second rather than third. With apologies to coaches everywhere, it may not matter where you are until the end of the season, but you can't get to where you want to be unless you are in position. Bama is in position, which means in one of the top three spots.



Although Alabama ranks third in this week's Harris Poll and the Coaches' Poll, both used in the BCS rankings, the Crimson Tide is second overall on the strength of computer rankings. Bama is number two in the Associated Press poll. Florida continues to be number one in every ranking.

The third team in the mix is Texas, second to the Gators in the Harris and Coaches, third in the AP, and fourth in the computer rankings. Barring a major upset in the next two weeks, Alabama and Florida will play in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game in Atlanta. The winner of that game will head to Pasadena for a January 7 game against Texas for the national championship.

This week Alabama is host to Tennessee-Chattanooga for a non-conference game. Although it is blasphemy to suggest it, this is the type game which should be put away quickly, with key Alabama players given almost the equivalent of an open date.

Kickoff Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium will be at 11:21 a.m. CST with regional television coverage on the SEC network. Alabama is 10-0 overall and 7-0 in SEC games.

The Tide's final regular season opponent, Auburn, is idle this week. One reason it will be important for Alabama to get starting players out of the UTC game as quickly as possible is that the Auburn game is on a Friday, meaning Bama has one less day to prepare.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban isn't likely to advertise it, or even acknowledge it--he probably would deny it--, but it is reasonable that Tide practice this week will include things Bama expects to need against Auburn. It is not necessary to tell players that some schemes are in preparation for Auburn rather than Chattanooga.

Anyone who has been paying the least bit of attention knows that Saban -- correctly -- is process-oriented, meaning that the job each week is for each player to work to become better regardless of the opponent or situation. That's how championship teams are built.

Regardless of what goes on in preparation, the national college football conversation includes whether Alabama is capable of winning the crown.

More are coming around to the realization that this Crimson Tide ranks among the very best ever Bama teams. That means national championship caliber.

Prior to this season when it was believed that Alabama would have a very good defense, the standard raised was that the 1992 team had so many players who went to the NFL. Now it is obvious that many on this year's defense are likely to be professional players. Bama junior linebacker Rolando McClain may be the best defensive player in the nation.

Alabama's championship teams have had heady, capable quarterbacks. Greg McElroy isn't Joe Namath, but he's very much like Pat Trammell, Steve Sloan, Jeff Rutledge, Steadman Shealy and Jay Barker, who quarterbacked Bama to national titles.

Mark Ingram, a sophomore, could be the Heisman Trophy winner.

Alabama hasn't been perfect. There is still room for improvement. Saban said after the Tide's 31-3 win at Mississippi State that he thinks Bama has a better game to play.

A better game could be good enough if it comes at the right time.

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