Every Saturday night, as the 7 p.m. East Coast games start winding down and the smoke begins to clear from yet another toppled undefeated team, I can't help but imagine the folks down in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Fresh off another victory, watching the scores go by on the ESPN Bottom Line, drumming their fingers together and cackling as their master plan for college football domination takes shape.
From the preseason until midseason, Alabama's place atop the heap has been treated like a foregone conclusion. The handful of doubters that had USC or LSU as their top-ranked team in August (including me) have been ground down like an opposing defensive line during a third-quarter Tide drive.
"Can they be beaten? Do they have any weaknesses?" Former coach Dan Hawkins smiled at me as he repeated my questions in the conference room at ESPNU as we prepared for last week's edition of "The Experts." "Sure. Every team has a bad day. Every team has a flaw that can be exposed."
Then he started laughing. "I'm just having a hard time finding one with these guys."
So, you can imagine the challenge when we went looking for five, as in this week's edition of the top-5 list. As always, we asked those in the know. Some of the answers were across the board. Others felt like reaches. But that shouldn't be a surprise.
Tennessee Volunteers head coach Derek Dooley, a former lieutenant of Bama head coach Nick Saban, said earlier this year that it's not about finding a giant weakness to take advantage of, "it's more of a tiny little seam. It's your job as a football coach to turn that seam into something that can be exploited."
So read ahead as we explore the five best strategies for beating the Alabama Crimson Tide.