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Jones: Alabama stalking spot among sports' greatest dynasties

Running back Bo Scarbrough helps coach Nick Saban hold aloft the Peach Bowl trophy as linebacker Ryan Anderson looks on after Alabama earns a title shot.
Published Jan. 1, 2017

ATLANTA — Red, blue and purple confetti rained down from the roof of the Georgia Dome while Sweet Home Alabama blasted over the loudspeakers. As Alabama coach Nick Saban was handed yet another trophy with a football on it, his players were handed T-shirts that read, "Still Rollin."

Pardon the misspelling, but Alabama football can do whatever it darn well pleases and there isn't a thing you can do about it. It can especially make up words because, frankly, we're running out of words to describe it.

"They kind of are what we thought they were," Washington coach Chris Petersen said.

Yeah, the best team in the country. Maybe the best football program we've ever seen.

It doesn't feel like 'Bama is coming to Tampa to win a national title; it feels like it is coming to claim its place among the giants in all of sports — like the dynasties of the Yankees, Celtics and UCLA basketball.

Seriously, do we even need to play the game? Alabama winning another national title — it is going for five in eight years — feels like a foregone conclusion. It has ever since it opened the season by creaming what is now the No. 9 team in the country (USC) by the tune of 52-6 in the season opener.

Even when it doesn't play well — and Saturday, it didn't play well, especially on offense — it's still good enough to kick the snot out of the No. 4 team in the country.

The Crimson Tide, with its true freshman quarterback, completed only seven passes for a mere 57 yards. It punted eight times. It ran fewer plays than Washington and committed way more penalties. Yet Alabama's suffocation was so dominant that you half-wondered if a high school team snuck onto the field wearing Washington uniforms.

This wasn't Florida, with its inept offense. This wasn't some SEC also-ran such as South Carolina or Vandy. This was Washington, for crying out loud.

The Huskies came into the game with the fourth-best offense in the country, averaging nearly 45 points. They left with a mere 194 yards of offense and the same number of touchdowns as Alabama's defense.

"It's games like this that make you appreciate the game," Alabama running back Damien Harris said.

It's games like this that make you appreciate Alabama.

A seldom-used running back (Bo Scarbrough) who rushes for 180 yards, including a did-you-see-that 68-yard pinball touchdown run. A defense that sacks Washington's Jake Browning five times and holds him to 150 yards passing. And another game-changing defensive touchdown turning the Tide.

Leading 10-7 late in the first half, 'Bama looked wobbly. Then, showing you how well coached they are, a couple of defensive players made an on-the-fly adjustment that resulted in linebacker Ryan Anderson's 26-yard interception return for a touchdown.

"The quarterback didn't see me," Anderson said, "and I just picked it off."

He did more than that. He sent Alabama to the national championship game.

"Big play," Saban said.

You knew then and there the game was over even though it was 17-7 with a half to play.

"Totally changed the momentum of the game," Browning said. "They've had some games where it's close, and then they'll get a defensive touchdown and get rolling."

Anderson's pick-six was Alabama's 15th non-offensive touchdown. Let that sink in. Fifteen. That's only four fewer than Rutgers' offense scored all season.

After the game, you would think Alabama's locker room would be rocking and, to use their word, rollin. The Tide is on its way to Tampa, where it will be favored to win back-to-back titles. Another trophy for the case. You would think it would be reason to celebrate like it was New Year's Eve.

Instead, the Tide players quietly dressed with little indication of what had happened on the field.

"Still more work to do," Alabama's Jalen Hurts said. "One more game. We're not celebrating anything yet. Business as usual."

In Alabama, business is good.

As usual.

Contact Tom Jones at tjones@tampabay.com. Follow @tomwjones.

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