Okay, reality check from the weekend: Losing sucks.
Saturday’s drubbing at the hands of the South Carolina Gamecocks was a bitter pill to swallow for a team that hasn’t experienced a loss in the regular season since W. was still in office.
As Alabama head coach Nick Saban said in his post-game presser, Alabama didn’t lose; they were beaten. USCe outplayed them, was more physical and executed a well-planned game plan, and yet Alabama still had multiple opportunities to take control of the game in the fourth quarter.
The loss hurts, but the season is far from lost. Here’s why:
1. We needed to lose.
Quite frankly, Alabama has been playing with a bull’s eye on its back for two years. With every win the pressure grew for this team with tons of new faces in key leadership roles. Carrying the No. 1 distinction against a quality opponent in their house takes an already difficult environment into a crazed frenzy.
Though many opponents may have felt differently, Alabama wasn’t going to take an unbeaten streak into Nick Saban’s retirement. A loss was coming sooner or later, and according to most pundits before the season, we’re right on schedule.
This team had lost its edge. But now humbled, if the Tide is truly who most think they are, they’ll play the rest of the season with the same pissed-off aggression that made Tim Tebow cry in the Georgia Dome.
2. If we were going to pick a game to lose, this was the one.
Lose to Arkansas and we’re playing from behind against a quality SEC West opponent for the rest of the season. Our chances of making it to Atlanta would be difficult to say the least. The Hogs would have to lose twice while we finished unscathed, and there aren’t two other teams that will beat them this season.
Lose to Florida and Meyer regains the edge he had established over Alabama, though being from the SEC East it wouldn’t have been cataclysmic. We just wouldn’t get another shot at the Gators until 2011.
But lose to South Carolina and we have something to play for. We have a goal. We have a golden carrot: Do everything we need to do and in eight weeks we get another shot at the team that embarrassed us.
Ask Urban Meyer what it’s like to face Nick Saban the next time when he was out-coached in the previous meeting.
3. All of the season’s goals are still in play
Dating back to 1999, other than last year’s Alabama team, only one other team has won the SEC by going undefeated in league play. In fact, three times in that span the team that won the SEC lost two or more conference games.
Here’s the complete list:
2009 – Alabama 14-0
2008 – Florida 13-1 (Ole Miss)
2007 – LSU 12-2 (Arky & UK)
2006 – Florida 12-1 (Auburn)
2005 – Georgia 10-3 (Florida, Auburn, WV)
2004 – Auburn 13-0
2003 – LSU 13-1 (Florida)
2002 – Georgia 13-1 (Florida)
2001 – LSU 10-3 (Tennessee, Florida, Ole Miss)
2000 – Florida 10-3 (Missy St., FSU, Miami)
1999 – Alabama 10-3 (LaTech, UT, Michigan)
And just for grins, here’s the list of National Champs dating back to 1999:
2009 – Alabama 14-0
2008 – Florida 13-1
2007 – LSU 12-2
2006 – Florida 13-1
2005 – Texas 13-0
2004 – USC 13-0
2003 – LSU 13-1 (UF) / USC 12-1 (Cal)
2002 – Ohio State 14-0
2001 – Miami 12-0
2000 – Oklahoma 13-0
1999 – Florida State 12-0
Now, today the National Championship is decidedly more difficult to attain than it was last Friday, but if USCe can take just one loss into Atlanta, the SEC Championship Game can become the catalyst it has been in recent years into the big game.
4. There’s a lot of football left to be played.
Of the three contenders in the SEC West, here’s the gauntlet:
The Tide should roll the next two weeks against Ole Miss at home and UcheaT on the road, though I don’t expect that one to come easy. Bama then enjoys a well-needed week off before heading to Baton Rouge. That game should be a blood-bath, but if Bama can muster any kind of offense it is winnable.
Bama then has Mississipi State (again, they don’t deserve the second P) who is playing well of late, but has to come to our house. Then they have the fighting Bill Currys and then Auburn, again at our place. Beating us in Bryant-Denny has become a different story since Saban’s gotten things like he likes them in Tuscaloosa.
Bama has the best team but the hardest road, period. Six teams with off weeks before them, I don’t care how sick you are of hearing it, is just incredible.
This Saturday, LSU gets the equivalent of a week off at home against McNeese State before heading to Abarn. They then get a real week off before facing Bama before capping their season against La.Monroe and Ole Miss at home and the Hogs in Fayetteville. There are two losses in play for them before 2010 is complete. But we need them to keep winning so the Hat has to stay.
The Tigers should enter their game with Bama undefeated, though disarray on the sidelines coupled with delusional frenzy in Jordan-Hare on October 23rd will play into Abarn’s favor.
The reason Abarn is 3-0 in the league is because their road games so far have come against Missy State and Kentucky…a pathetic team Florida destroyed and Ole Miss beat, and yet the tiggers had to kick a game winner with no time to get out of Lexington. Abarn owns an impressive win over USCe, I’ll offer that. But, getting up for a big game in your own stadium in front of your own crowd is far different than an opponent getting up for you on the road, with Game Day in town, while you’re the defending SEC and National Champion and current number one team in the land.
The tiggers are traditionally a team of hype, smoke, mirrors and emotion, and if the Hogs take them down this Saturday, look for the air to come out of the orange and blue balloon. AU played a fantastic game against USCe, but can they replicate that performance against Bobby Petrino? The man savors every win against Auburn like an ex-girlfriend smooching somebody else in front of her old beau.
Then LSU with “a week off” comes a’callin’, amazingly to Jordan-Hare (have you ever seen a team handed more big games at home than Abarn this year?). The game will pit the two luckiest teams in the SEC against one another. Auburn later faces Ole Miss, UT-Chattanooga (wow) and Georgia before taking their medicine in Bryant-Denny.
The season took a wrong turn in Columbia, but we can still “get there from here.” Where we once totally controlled our destiny to Glendale, we still do to get to Atlanta. The bigger question, however, is was last Saturday’s bitter pill a dose of reality or just what the doctor ordered?
(Follow me on Twitter at ITK4BAMA for capstonereport.com news, commentary and smack.)