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September 18, 2011

TALKIN' TIDE: North Texas speed bump on way to Bama national championship run

TUSCALOOSA — Even as the teams were taking pregame warmups Saturday, the impartial viewer got the impression that North Texas never stood a chance to pull off an upset victory over Alabama.

The Mean Green certainly looked green in their green helmets and pants, but didn't appear to be very mean.

On paper, this shouldn't even be a close contest and that quickly proved to be the case as quarterback AJ McCarron connected with Brad Smelley for a 20-yard pass on the first play — and the rout was on.

The Crimson Tide did have to settle for a first-drive field goal but nonetheless, North Texas never found a rhythm on offense or defense.

Don't get me wrong. I'm the kind of fan that roots for the underdog and the Green certainly fit that bill. But the Sun Belt Conference team looked about as out of sorts as you would expect of any mid-major that comes into Bryant-Denny Stadium.

While those kind of upsets do occasionally happen — remember last season's Jacksonville State at Mississippi State game — it definitely shouldn't even be a consideration for a       national title contender. And that is what Alabama appears to be thus far.

AJ McCarron has quickly become a precision quarterback, especially on short routes. With the talented receivers on the other end of those passes, and with the talented running back corps that has already shown to be one of the country's best, the Tide should have no problems scoring on any team — except maybe LSU, which contends with Bama for the SEC's best defensive unit.

 That game, which will be played in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 5, could very well determine the SEC West champion and for that matter, the SEC's prime BCS national championship candidate.

 It's never too early to go out on a limb, so here's an early season prediction.

 LSU and Alabama roll over all competition and both go into the Nov. 5 showdown undefeated, without a ton of points having been scored on either squad.

On Nov. 6, the Associated Press poll will dub the Crimson Tide No. 1 after a very low-scoring victory over the Tigers.

As the old saying goes, the over-under on that game may be less than 20 points — for both teams combined.

And there's another factor to consider for Bama's ongoing season. Whether or not to count Saturday's win as an omen, remember that the Crimson Tide defeated North Texas 53-7 early in the 2009 national championship campaign.

So if you believe in superstition, Tide fans may be visiting Bourbon Street in January.

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