It’s absolutely amazing. Some may call it unfortunate. Others just downright annoying. But with each and every win for the 2008 University of Alabama football team, they become decreasingly significant. The national pundits, who make their living incessantly running the hole just beneath their noses, continue to search for a team they can herald as the best in the land, despite what is taking place on the field just under those same noses.
Alabama has logged road wins at Arkansas, in Athens, in Knoxville and now in Baton Rouge. It manhandled then No. 9 Clemson, when neither Clemson nor Alabama knew how good the other opponent was–and don’t discount the significance of a team playing well when it doesn’t know it isn’t good yet. Bama has defended its own turf against a handful of upstart, upset minded foes, one being Ole Miss, who took down the mighty Gators in the Swamp. Funny how no one bothers to give that fact any credence, but pass over it as fast as they can…like roadkill on the side of the interstate.
But harkening back to last weekend, can anyone imagine what it was like walking into the pressure cooker Bama coaches and players walked into in Sodom and Gomorrah, er, Death Valley last weekend? Does Texas Tech play anyone on their schedule who burns a coach in effigy the night before? How bout the Sooners? Will rabid, godless South Carolina fans require that Urban Meyer have extra protection next weekend. Oh wait, the Gators get the Gamecocks in their own backyard. Walking out with a victory last Saturday night was simply impressive, regardless of the score, the previous games or any other factor.
However, right now in college football, sexy offensive teams like Florida, Oklahoma and Texas Tech are the flavor of the day. Each have high powered, high octane offenses that produce flashy highlights that sell the ads for Sportscenter. The most common phrase you’ll here is, “Alabama may be #1, but…” And you know what? I love it.
Who can argue that the Crimson Tide is waaaaay ahead of schedule? Just 358 days ago, Louisiana-Monroe left Bryant-Denny Stadium having ripped the heart out of the Bama Nation. Worse yet, the game cost us virtually our only playmaker left on the team in Javier Arenas, who suffered a high ankle sprain. Injury had already dilapidated the team, but with that loss, we didn’t have a single healthy playmaker left to face our little brothers on the Plains.
But O, how times have changed. If I had shared with any of you reading this on that cold, depressing November afternoon that the Tide would win 11 out of their next 12 games, seal the SEC West crown with two games left on the schedule in ’08 and be poised for its 13th National Championship, you would have told me I was crazy. But here we are. And we’ve done it with grit, discipline, power and defense. All the things analysts hate.
Analysts–another word for former coaches/players who can’t make a living in the game anymore because they lost too much–prefer “unstoppable offenses” with “gunslingers” who take teams for touchdown drives on seven straight possessions. Heck, who doesn’t? But remember this tired, worn out phrase, absolutely drenched and dripping with the truth:
Offense sells tickets. Defense wins championships.
Alabama holds it’s own destiny in its hands. We’re in Atlanta, regardless of what happens the next two games. But get revenge on Mississippi State, catch a breath on an off weak, drop the hammer on the greasy mess called Auburn (erst while shoving Tommy’s fingers where they should go), and then do to Florida what can be done to Florida…man up, stop the run and make plays in the secondary.
And then, Nick Saban has six weeks to prepare for our final opponent. And regardless of who that might be, given his proven game planning with time to work (see Clemson), I like our odds. But no matter what happens, I leave this final thought with you. We have nine seniors on this team. In 2008, you have seen the future of Alabama football. And behold, it is good. But Nick Saban coming to Alabama didn’t mean anything did it?