TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- When you're the No. 1-ranked team in the country, you find motivation in small, sometimes unseen places.
A week ago, Alabama felt slighted -- disrespected, in fact -- when an otherwise unknown Vanderbilt offensive lineman said, "Alabama, you're next." Those three fairly benign -- and factually correct -- words were bolded, underlined and fed into the furnace of Nick Saban's locker room. What came next was a 59-0 beatdown and a warning to say nothing of the Crimson Tide.
Ole Miss didn't say a word before its trip to Tuscaloosa, and yet Alabama still took offense. Saban told his players that the "ultimate disrespect" was when "someone quietly thinks they got your number." And considering that Ole Miss had beaten Alabama in two of the past three seasons, the Rebs qualified. In fact, Saban said he didn't believe Alabama had truly defeated Ole Miss in four years -- they'd won twice, but the scores were too close to be labeled a victory, he said.
On Saturday night in Bryant-Denny Stadium, there would be no doubt. No. 1-ranked Alabama was focused, aggressive and unrelenting in its dismantling of Ole Miss, winning 66-3.
It was more than a defeat. It was utter dominance.
Ten minutes into the game, Alabama led 21-0. Bo Scarbrough ran roughshod over the defense for the game's first touchdown, Levi Wallace turned in a pick-six and Jalen Hurts found a wide open Hale Hentges for an easy score.
And even then there was no letup. When starting punt returner Trevon Diggs fumbled, he was promptly benched in favor of Henry Ruggs. After the defense gave up a 26-yard field goal, it didn't allow the Ole Miss offense past midfield on five consecutive drives. When the starters were pulled, the dogs were not called off.
Hurts got his -- 12 of 19 passing for 197 yards and two touchdowns, plus 101 yards and a touchdown rushing -- and so did his backup. Tua Tagovailoa, the true freshman from Hawaii, completed 3 of 5 passes for 51 yards and rushed for 37 yards on four carries.
Six running backs ended up touching the ball, punctuated by sixth-string back Ronnie Clark rushing for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to go ahead by an unmerciful 63 points.
All told, Alabama outgained Ole Miss 613 yards to 253.
Rebs star quarterback Shea Patterson did the best he could but was sacked a handful of times and turned the ball over twice.
Patterson was just the latest victim of the Alabama defense, which a week earlier had transformed Vanderbilt's Kyle Shurmur from college football's most efficient passer to a 4-for-14, 18-yard mess.
A little more than a third of the way through the regular season, it remains to be seen whether Alabama will be able to keep up this pace. But if it can manufacture motivation against double-digit underdogs in back-to-back weeks, it's certainly a good sign of things to come.
Next Saturday, Alabama travels to Texas A&M.
Ole Miss, which falls to 2-2, will go on the road to No. 13 Auburn.