Originally Published: October 30, 2013

Can an 'anti-Alabama' dethrone the Tide?

By Brian Bennett | ESPN.com

Last week, Nick Saban called out Alabama students for leaving Crimson Tide games early, saying they needed to stick around for all 60 minutes or give away their tickets.

The students responded on Saturday by keeping their section of Bryant-Denny Stadium full until the end of a 45-10 win over Tennessee -- a game the Tide led 35-0 at halftime.

Alabama Fan Sign
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAn Alabama fan promises not to leave a game early if Nick Saban promises not to leave the Crimson Tide.

We don't really know if Alabama students are growing bored of their team's constant domination. But if so, they would merely be joining the rest of America.

Saban's "process" reaps undeniably admirable results, as his program has won three of the past four national titles and is in position to claim a third straight crystal football this January.

Admiration and enjoyment, however, do not always go together. An Alabama fatigue factor exists across the country, both because of the Crimson Tide's sustained success and the clinical, almost bloodless, manner in which they've achieved it.

The biggest suspense in the last two BCS title games -- in which Alabama beat Notre Dame and LSU by a combined score of 63-14 -- was whether Saban would crack half a smirk during the celebration.

We respect Alabama's precision. But we also long for some panache. In an age when everyone has a high-definition television and a smartphone to relay all the scores, we demand entertainment as well as execution from our college football teams.

Luckily, we also have an abundance of alternative, anti-Alabama programming this season. In fact, it seems that we're blessed with an unprecedented amount of spectacles and showmen on display from coast to coast, and that is true at the top of this season's BCS standings.

If you could afford just one ticket -- or if you had a really terrible cable package that gave you access to just one game -- how would you choose between some of these top viewing options?

John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsArt Briles has Baylor's offense producing at a historic rate and the Bears haven't shown signs of slowing down.

Baylor: Art Briles and the Bears are challenging our notions about the limits of a college football offense by putting up wacky numbers in Waco. Baylor is averaging 718 yards and 63.9 points per game, both of which are well above the all-time FBS records. Briles' offense utilizes space better than the movie "Gravity" and does so at the speed of light, with 44 touchdown drives of two minutes or fewer this season.

Oregon: There's not a lot new about the Ducks' fast-paced offense and weekly uniform fashion show. Except that they have somehow become even more proficient in life after Chip Kelly. Their quarterback, Marcus Mariota, never throws an interception and averages 9 yards per carry, leading an attack that scores 55.6 points a game. A Baylor-Oregon game would basically just be a green-tinted strobe light.

Jameis Winston: Florida State's precocious quarterback already has the nickname -- Famous Jameis -- and magnetic personality of a superstar. He also backs it up, with a ridiculous 23-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio that has the Seminoles in the national title hunt and has him at the forefront of the Heisman Trophy picture. He's the best redshirt freshman quarterback we've seen since…

Johnny Manziel: The fact that Johnny Football is fourth on this list says a lot about the sport's attractions this season. He probably won't win a second straight Heisman, but he might be having an even better season when you consider that Texas A&M needs him and the offense to score at least 40 points every week to have any chance to win. Manziel is completing 73 percent of his passes and is on pace to account for 45 touchdowns.

Everywhere you look this year, there are must-see coaches, teams and players. Even in the stodgy old Big Ten, where 10-7 scores used to be the norm, Urban Meyer and Ohio State are forcing the rest of the league's teams to change their ways. The Buckeyes have won 20 straight games and are averaging 47.3 points per game this year. Scoring, in fact, is up throughout the Big Ten.

The same is true in the formerly defensive-minded SEC, which has given itself over to spread offenses and gifted quarterbacks, to the benefit of viewers. The most thrilling game of the year, actually, might well have been Alabama's 49-42 win over Texas A&M and Manziel.

See? There's hope for the Crimson Tide yet. All they need is a fun opponent that can bring out the best in them without getting smashed under Saban's boot in another dreadfully boring title game.

Here we are now. Entertain us.

Brian Bennett | email

ESPN Staff Writer

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