Single Worst Play of the Season -- So Far (Special College Edition): Game tied 28-28 at Auburn, an Alabama runner stepped out-of-bounds as the clock expired in regulation, sending the contest to overtime. Then a second was put back on the clock, and Alabama attempted a 57-yard field goal that was returned for a touchdown with the clock expired. Auburn ousts the two-time defending BCS champion, plus goes the length of the field in the final seconds for the second time in as many games.
Nick Saban demanded the extra play on which his charges were defeated. Why did Saban argue vehemently to put one second back on the clock? The Crimson Tide had already gone 0-for-3 with field goal attempts on the night; a 57-yarder seemed improbable. Since college teams rarely attempt very long field goals, kicking team members don't prepare to defend runbacks. And how could Saban not be aware that a long field goal miss may be returned? LSU, in his own conference, ran a long missed field goal back for a touchdown this season. As Saban sent the kicking unit onto the field, Gus Malzahn called timeout. Why? To take out big guys and put in speed guys. When the kick boomed, the Tigers had five speed players on the field; Saban didn't seem aware of this.
Alabama demanded the extra second that caused its own demise, then failed to prepare for a return despite a bright flashing warning that was Auburn's plan. Nick Saban, you are guilty of the single worst play of the season. So far.
Next Week: TMQ's bye week. I will use the bye week to get healthy, draw up unorthodox new sentence structures, and seek corporate sponsors for my long-delayed celebrity Yahtzee tournament. I'll be back Dec. 17, and on the case through that Super Bowl thing you might have heard about.
In addition to writing Tuesday Morning Quarterback for ESPN, Gregg Easterbrook is the author of " The King of Sports" and eight other books, and is a contributing editor of The Atlantic. His website is here and you can follow him on Twitter here. Every Tuesday during the football season, at 3 p.m. Eastern, he will answer questions on Twitter about that day's column.