T hey say perception is reality. That what is believed to be true becomes true in the minds of some whether it is or not, simply on the basis that, well, it’s believed.
With ridiculous talk circulating last week from the lips of Steve Spurrier about how the Tide could beat an NFL team, Alabama faced LSU in Baton Rouge at night. A place where Les Miles was 36-1 in his career as the Tigers’ head man.
Vegas pinned Alabama as an 8.5 point favorite. And everybody but the Tuscaloosa News’ Cecil Hurt predicted another runaway win in a season of runaway wins for Alabama.
But instead, what followed was a hard fought, come-from-behind victory in the toughest of environments. A win against a team that had eaten, slept and breathed Alabama football since January 9th…moreso than the Tide’s own players.
The scene was perfect. A bye week to rest and finish preparation. Night time. A good game plan. A quarterback playing out of his shoes.
But in the end, as has been the case eight other times this season, Alabama was too much for its opponent.
If any other team in the land weathered the storm that Alabama stood up under last Saturday night in Baton Rouge, they would be crowned a super power. But instead, the party line from talking heads everywhere is how Alabama is beatable.
Case in point, Alabama has been penalized for looking human, despite the fact that neither Nick Saban nor any of his players ever claimed not to be.
The Tide’s BCS ranking has actually strengthened, but it’s the perception of NFL-like power that has taken the hit. And without doing anything but win in a place where it’s nearly impossible to do it, Alabama’s over-hyped lore has taken a step backward.
This Saturday, Texas A&M comes to town bringing another over-hyped, media creation with it. Johnny Manziel, the Aggie freshman phenom quarterback who has looked spectacular against overmatched opponents will bring his Doug Flutie-like skills to Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Johnny Football ran all over Auburn…a feat as hard as kicking a puppy. Johnny Football ran all over Mississippi State, the week after Alabama shredded the Bulldogs’ belief in themselves. The Aggies now own as many SEC wins as Dan Mullen does in his time at Missy State.
But if Alabama doesn’t win by six touchdowns, there is something wrong in Tuscaloosa. Or at least that’s what I predict the company line will be.
It’s no wonder Nick Saban hates the media. They create expectations for the fans, most of which can’t be met. They ask stupid questions, trying to bait coaches into drawing comparisons between past and present players, ultimately creating loft perceptions that the kid can never reach.
And likewise, they do the same for entire teams.
Bama stood up in Baton Rouge with a 21-0 sized target on its back and shut the Tigers up, in their house, for a second game in a row. But because the Tide didn’t run the No. 5 LSU Tigers out of their own stadium like no one else has been able to do in recent memory, there’s something wrong in Tuscaloosa.
Evidently winning isn’t enough anymore, nor is a last minute, fourth quarter comeback. For a program that not so long ago under a previous coach never….ever….came back while behind in the fourth quarter, it’s funny to me how quickly perceptions change.
Ask most Bama fans and they’ll tell you, being No. 1 is enough, no matter how you get there. Ask any Auburn fan and they’ll tell you…in private…that they’d crawl through glass, naked, with one leg on fire to swap places with Alabama.
But Bama is the golden standard in college football, and with that unsolicited distinction comes ridiculous analysis, speculation, predictions and, well, perceptions.
It’s good to be king. I guess.