Alabama football: On Bama fatigue, and what happens from here
Once the disco-style lights had been extinguished and the social-media posts of crazy Ed Orgeron blissfully cursing up a storm in the LSU locker room after the top-ranked Tigers downed Alabama, the question on the table is where does the Crimson Tide go from here?
The answer is a complicated one. Surely the Crimson Tide will drop — for now — out of the top 4 in the media and coaches polls as well as the College Football Playoff rankings. How far they drop is almost completely dependent on 1 intangible characteristic …
There are those, and they are legion, that are plenty sick and tired of Alabama being a part of the — if not the entire — conversation when it comes time to crown a college football champion. Just as how the world almost unconsciously roots for the underdog, the perennial favorite (see: Yankees, New York) becomes the easiest of targets.
And in the beauty pageant world of college football, where what the cognoscenti believes is almost as important as actual wins and on-field performance, voters and CFP committee members could easily slide the Crimson Tide one or two spots back from where they might truly belong because of Alabama Fatigue.
Alabama coach Nick Saban seems to understand this exact thing, recognizing postgame that the Tide’s future in 2019 is most decidedly not in their hands after falling 46-41 to LSU.
“We don’t really control our own destiny, but if we finish the season the right way, we can see where it takes us,” Saban said. “We’ve been in this situation before.”
Yes, Alabama has been in this position before. A couple times, to be precise.
In 2015, then-No. 2 Alabama lost 43-37 to No. 15 Ole Miss and had to battle back to eventually win the SEC West, beat Florida in the SEC title game, thump Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl and outlast Clemson 45-40 in the CFP title game.
Two years later, the top-ranked Crimson Tide lost to No. 6 Auburn 26-14 and seemingly saw their hopes for a 17th national title evaporate in the Lee County haze. But Alabama caught a break the very next week when No. 6 Georgia upset No. 2 Auburn in the SEC title game and No. 8 Ohio State upset No. 4 Wisconsin in the Big 10 title game — allowing Alabama to slide into the No. 4 spot in the CFP rankings.
From there, Alabama beat Clemson in the semifinals and famously subbed in freshman Tua Tagovailoa for Jalen Hurts at halftime against Georgia en route to a 26-23 overtime win and a 17th crown.
For Alabama to make it into its record 6th CFP bracket, a few things will need to happen. First, the Tide need pollsters to have an open enough mind to factor in the 2nd half of Saturday’s game instead of just the 1st. Alabama rallied hard against LSU, and while the Tide never had the ball in their hands with the chance to take the lead, they kept the Tigers playing to the very end.
Next, Alabama just became LSU’s biggest fans. The Tide want the Tigers to run the table — at Ole Miss and at home against Arkansas and Texas A&M shouldn’t be a problem — and then beat the SEC East winner like a drum in Atlanta. A stronger LSU means Saturday’s 5-point loss weighs well when considering Alabama’s resume.
After that, Alabama needs Baylor and Minnesota to lose at some point along the way to eliminate all but LSU, Ohio State and Clemson from the unbeaten ranks. From there, it truly becomes a beauty contest among 1-loss teams.
That seems like a lot, of course. But in the world of college football, the ball bounces funny every weekend. It is almost as likely that ALL the unbeaten teams could lose at some point in the next couple weeks and Alabama could find itself right back in the Top 2.
In the immediate future, of course, what Alabama can control is its own play. A trip to Mississippi State next week could cure what ailed the Tide on Saturday. Senior day two weeks later against Western Carolina is a pure cupcake. And the annual faceoff with No. 11 Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium is a prime spot to get a big win and give decision-makers a final positive look.
Saban, naturally, isn’t even looking that far ahead. One would almost think he had to be talked out of a Saturday night practice once everybody left town to get back to work on improvement.
“We don’t want to waste a failure,” Saban said. “There’s a lot of lessons to be learned from things that we did and didn’t do today. I think that everybody has got to make a commitment to finish the season the right way.”
That starts immediately. The road back to national title contention is murkier now than it was a 2:29 p.m. CT on Saturday afternoon. But it is a road Alabama has traveled before, and is hungry now to do it all over again.