ATHENS — Forget all of that stuff about Alabama falling out of the top 10 and being the underdog for the first time in 72 games.
Rumors of the Crimson Tide’s demise were greatly exaggerated.
Knowing that another loss would end any hopes of a return to the national championship game, coach Nick Saban was practically effusive about his players after their dominating 38-10 victory over Georgia on Saturday.
“I thought this was a difficult challenge,” he said. “I told them before the game that the plan we had for them, ordinary players wouldn’t be able to go out there and get it done. We needed them to be extraordinary. And they were.
“They were special. They’ve been that way all year. I know they’ve been criticized a lot, but I thought we played an outstanding game.”
Talk swirled all week how Alabama’s dynasty was done and that a loss to Georgia would result in an eastern shift of power in the SEC. The Bulldogs even opened as 2-point favorite.
Instead, the 13th-ranked Crimson Tide (4-1, 1-1), who already had lost at home to Ole Miss, dominated the eighth-ranked Bulldogs and gave Saban an 18-7 record against top 10 teams.
“We were all on the same page,” defensive end Jarran Reed said.
The Crimson Tide stuck to their game plan of handing the ball to Derrick Henry and throwing play-action passes.
That worked perfectly as they controlled the line of scrimmage and out-executed the Bulldogs in all three phases.
Henry rushed for a career-high 148 yards and quarterback Jake Coker threw for 190 yards and accounted for two touchdowns.
Alabama picked off three passes, with Eddie Jackson returning his 50 yards for a touchdown that gave the Crimson Tide a 31-3 lead.
And on special teams, freshman Minkah Fitzpatrick blocked a punt, picked it up and ran it in for a score.
“We scored on special teams. We scored on defense. And we scored on offense,” Saban said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of the players and the coaches.”
He’ll be looking for more of the same against Arkansas next Saturday. He knows what another loss means.
“I think we’ve improved,” Saban said. “I think we’re getting better. I think it’s one game. I think we have to show we can play with consistency.”