COLUMBIA, MO. Afterward, after No. 1 Alabama's inevitable win over a Missouri team still finding its way in the SEC, Alabama players ran underneath the bowels of Faurot Field as fans on the concourse above leaned over and shouted, over and over, "Roll Tide!"
They had rolled again, this machine of a team head coach Nick Saban has put together. This time it was a 42-10 win that pushed the Crimson Tide to 6-0 and reaffirmed its unrivaled place among the top of college football, today, this season and over the past four years.
The players rushed by with the air of those who know this. They were ebullient with the surety of those who can feel in the cheers above and in the mounting wins and in that rush of a well-earned victory that they are at the top of what they do.
Then, after they'd gone, Saban appeared.
He ran, too, but his gait was faster, the energy around him as intense and focused as any of the athletes. But the air of celebration and achievement had been replaced by a grim steeliness. Saban ran so quickly two state troopers huffed and puffed to keep up with him. Even then, after a blowout, there wasn't any time to waste.
Then that streak of intensity that has made Saban who he his and Alabama what it once was whether it is focus or ambition or anger or determination or obsession or hunger or some combination vanished with him into the locker room. Only the chants remained, the fervent calls from above reminding anyone listening that Alabama's domination over college football has been nearly total since Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007.
On this day, a rainy affair that included a 30-minute lightning delay and deluged conditions, that domination looked like this: Mizzou gaining just three yards on the ground three a number that rose to only 53 if you decided to discount the fact Missouri's quarterback was sacked three times for a painful -53 rushing yards; two Alabama running backs easily topping 100 yards, each, with Eddie Lacy going for 177 and T.J. Yeldon grinding out 144; Missouri scoring its only touchdown on a kick return and having been at no point after the second play of the day actually in the football game.
"What that is maybe the best football team I've ever seen," Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel said afterward. "Time will tell. Some people will probably disagree with me, but I watched all the film last Sunday. I don't see a weakness. I absolutely don't see a weakness."
There may not be one, not really. And yes, people will disagree with him. But those people are very likely to end up being wrong.
Those people will say Missouri is no test, not in any real way, of how great this Alabama team ranks compared to previous national championship teams. They will say it's a long football season, with LSU still on the schedule and, if all goes well, an SEC Championship date with most likely South Carolina or Florida. They will say even for a team as talented as this Alabama team, and led by a coach as remarkable as Saban, there are no sure things, not in college football, not if you aspire to win it all.
And they will be right, even as the fact remains: This is Nick Saban's best group since stepping into Bear Bryant's shoes and claiming two national titles of his own. Which means this team holds in its hands its own fate and a real chance to win another one. There are no sure things, no. But this Alabama team is as close as you can get to one.
If the knee injury quarterback AJ McCarron had Saturday does not sideline him going forward he returned to the game after the injury when the team doctor gave the green light what happened at Mizzou may turn into the halfway point of history.
If Alabama wins the national championship, they will have won three of the last four. That would top Bear Bryant's best run, when in a much less competitive environment he won titles in 1961, 1964 and 1965. Since then, no team other than Nebraska (94, 95 and 97) has had a championship run that would equal Alabama's. Not Oklahoma's ('74 and '75), not Miami's ('87, '89 and '91) and not Texas' ('69 and '70). You'd have to go back to Notre Dame and the 1940s ('43, '46, '47 and '49) to top it.
Unlike Tom Osborne, however, Saban will have created a dynasty after having already won a championship. That would give him four. That would, without a doubt, make him one of the greatest football coaches of all time, regardless of how many people loathe him. And he'll be far from done at having real chances to add more.
The beat down against a Missouri team that had neither its starting quarterback nor a chance was more than another check off the list of SEC sure things. It was the halfway point of Alabama's regular season, halfway to Nick Saban methodically carving for himself a permanent place atop the upper echelon of collegiate coaching.
"I think as a whole team it's between them and the 2009 Texas team," Missouri said wide receiver TJ Moe said of the best team he's ever seen.
And what happened to that Texas team? They lost in the national championship game, 37-21, to Nick Saban's Alabama squad.
Handling Missouri so easily and Missouri's lack of a conference victory in its debut SEC season should not detract from the greatness unfolding before us. What Saban is shooting for is something on a historical scale. What he has done at Alabama is remarkable. It is, with every day like Saturday, tantalizingly closer to being turned into an all-time success story.
Sitting under a tarp outside his locker room, the rain leaking all around him, his slight frame leaning into the microphone, Saban summed it up best: "It's not what you can do, it's not the potential you have, it's what you do."
Yes. And Nick Saban seems well on his way to doing it again.
You can follow Bill Reiter on Twitter or email him at email@example.com.