Alabama had made it through the regular season without suffering a loss three times under coach Nick Saban before Saturday night. It could have been five, if not for Auburn.
The Tigers have spoiled the Crimson Tide’s chances at a perfect regular season twice in the past decade. The first was the “Kick Six” game in 2013. The second was last season, when the Tigers claimed a 26-14 win.
But on Saturday night, Alabama squashed any chance Auburn had at ruining its perfect record with a dazzling second-half scoring outburst in a 52-21 thrashing of its in-state rival.
Alabama didn’t just survive for 12 games. It churned through its opponents in dominant fashion, winning every game by 20 or more points.
While an unblemished regular season is a rare achievement, Alabama’s overall success will be measured by how it performs in the postseason.
“I think the SEC is a very good league,” Saban said. “For a team to go undefeated is quite an accomplishment, but it really doesn’t mean anything if we don’t take advantage of the opportunity that we have next week in the SEC Championship Game.”
Alabama will turn the page to a meeting against Georgia in Atlanta.
The Crimson Tide is set to face the Bulldogs in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the same building in which it claimed a miraculous national championship victory over them 11 months ago. Alabama won the game on Tua Tagovailoa’s 41-yard touchdown pass in overtime. But the player who made the catch, receiver DeVonta Smith, has no interest in remembering his moment of glory now.
“I don’t too much care about the catch anymore,” Smith said after the Auburn victory. “It’s a new year, we’re moving on.”
The familiarity between Alabama and Georgia extends further than just that one game. The Bulldogs are led by former Alabama assistant Kirby Smart, who is 32-8 since taking over the program in 2016.
“I heard some people calling it ‘The Rematch’ or whatever,” running back Josh Jacobs said. “But we’re just going to go out there and try to execute. We didn’t play our best game last year against them so we’re trying to capitalize on every aspect of the game next time around.”
Stopping the run will be one of Alabama’s priorities. Before Saturday’s games, Georgia ranked first in the SEC in rushing, averaging 257.55 yards per game. The Bulldogs have two running backs that have already surpassed 800 yards on the ground this season. Elijah Holyfield has 896 yards and D’Andre Swift has 962.
Alabama was successful in slowing Auburn’s rushing attack Saturday, limiting the Tigers to 130 yards on the ground, under its previous season average of 167.18.