Tide Game Won't Be A Yawner

The Bowl Championship Series Standings for this week have been released. Ditto the Associated Press poll, the Harris Interactive Poll, and the USA Today Coaches Poll. You can cut the tension with a knife, right? Not really. No surprises here.

Yawn. Alabama is number two in the BCS standings, number two in the AP poll, third in Harris and Coaches, and first in the computer rankings, just like before Florida, Alabama and Texas rolled over inferior competition Saturday.

It's the same three-team race it has been for weeks. So far, no slip-ups by the front-runners. As a result, if the three can make it one more week, there will be a national championship semifinals game (the Southeastern Conference Championship Game in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on December 6) and the national championship game with Texas meeting the SEC winner on January 7 in Pasadena. (Texas does have the little matter of beating Nebraska for the Big 12 title.)

The BCS standings have Florida and Alabama pretty close at one-two, the Gators with a .9664, Bama with a .9614. Texas is at .9263. Florida is in first in all polls except the computer results, where the Tide is first, Gators second. Texas is second in the Harris and Coaches rankings, but fourth in the computer polls.

There probably won't be a lot of talk about any of that in the state of Alabama this week. This is the week that Alabama plays Auburn. The game will be at Auburn on Friday, televised by CBS, with kickoff at 1:30 p.m. CST.

While Alabama was dispatching with Chattanooga, 45-0, Saturday to raise Bama's record to 11-0, Auburn had an open date. Bama's wasn't much more than a day off for the starters. Most were finished by the end of the first half, when the Crimson Tide had built a 35-0- lead.

That might be better than a day off, under the coach adage that when a team is playing well you want it to keep playing. Alabama had its open date just a few weeks ago and is not likely to be at a disadvantage from a health or fatigue standpoint.

By any reasonable measure, the disadvantage for Alabama this week is that Auburn could work out its preparation for the Friday game, whereas Bama has one day less than normal to get ready.

Following Saturday's game, Alabama Coach Nick Saban said Alabama had done some work during its bye week on future opponents, "so we did spend some time on it then. I think we understand what we need to do."

That doesn't mean it will be easy. Although Auburn is under a new head coach (and coaching staff) this year, the Tigers have had some highlights. Auburn has lost four of its last six games, including its last outing at Georgia, but the Tigers did win their first five games of the year and were nationally ranked.

Once upon a time there was a notion that previous records could be thrown out when rivals met in the final game of the season. Then someone noticed that there rarely an upset in this series, just as there is rarely an upset in any sport at any level. The better team wins when the better team plays better.

There aren't often upsets. But if the offensive line doesn't block for the punter (particularly if it's twice) or the best back in the nation doesn't have the discipline to run the right way and make a block, anything is possible.

The late Alf Van Hoose of the Birmingham News compared each team, position-by-position, prior to the Alabama-Auburn game. Of course, he saw each team about five times during the season before making that judgment. Anyone doing that this year would seemingly find Auburn a little better than Alabama on offense, the Crimson Tide better than the Tigers on defense, and special teams pretty close to even.

Although Saban is careful to eliminate goals from the Bama vernacular, Tide players know the importance in winning this game to reach the college football mountaintop. And that provides the motivation for Auburn, to spoil a fine Alabama season.

It will be here before you know it.

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