AUBURN, Ala. — Trent Richardson and No. 2 Alabama have convinced Nick Saban that they’re worthy of competing for college football’s top prize.
They’ll have to wait a while before the final decision is rendered.
Richardson rushed for a career-high 203 yards and AJ McCarron threw three first-half touchdown passes to lift Alabama to a 42-14 victory over rival Auburn on Saturday in what amounted to a statement game.
Let the lobbying begin. Saban said he thinks the Tide is one of the nation’s best two teams, Richardson’s the top player and ’Bama deserves a second shot at Louisiana State University.
“This team lost one game in overtime to a very, very good team who’s No. 1 right now,” the Tide coach said. “And we lost in overtime. Everybody’s got to make their choices and decisions about that.
The Tide (11-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) has a week before finding out if its résumé is good enough to secure a shot at a second national title in three years. No. 5 Oklahoma State, fourth in the BCS standings, and No. 1 LSU have big games remaining against No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 13 Georgia, respectively.
“That’s out of our hands but I think we’ve proven we should be there without a doubt,” said Alabama tight end Brad Smelley, who had six catches for 86 yards and a touchdown.
Richardson ran 27 times and caught a 5-yard touchdown pass in his final chance to impress Heisman voters. He had runs of 35 and 57 yards to set up second-half scores.
“To me, Trent’s the best football player in the country,” Saban said.
The thousands of ’Bama faithful in the stands seemed to agree.
Fans began chanting first “Heisman” and then “LSU” in the fourth quarter.
The Tide fell to LSU 9-6 in an overtime game that ’Bama fans at least feel didn’t settle the matter of which one is better.
Richardson said he’d already gotten a call from LSU star Russell Shepard saying “See you in New Orleans” for the title game.
Even if the national picture remains fuzzy, it’s pretty clear which is the best team in the state.
In the end, the win might have given the Tide enough style points to hold onto No. 2 in the BCS rankings whatever happens next week.
“We knew coming in that, hey, if you want to be in the national championship again – we deserve to be in it – we had to take care of business,” McCarron said. “And that’s what we did.”
The Tide dominated statistically but didn’t put Auburn (7-5, 4-4) away until Dee Milliner’s 35-yard interception return early in the fourth quarter.
Alabama entered the quarter with a 309-44 advantage in total yards.
But Alabama also gave up touchdowns on a fumble recovery and a kick return.