Back Tide Return to “The Bama Way” in Spring Game

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Tide Return to “The Bama Way” in Spring Game

By Dave Holcomb
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The message around the Alabama football program seems to be that last season wasn’t good enough.

Except probably Clemson, every football program in the country would take a 14-1 record to end a year. In addition to that record last fall, Alabama has gone 55-4 over the last four seasons.

Excluding those matchups against the Tigers, the Crimson Tide is 53-2 since the start of 2015.

Yet, the message around the Alabama football program seems to be that last season wasn’t good enough. In an interview with ESPN’s Greg McElroy, coach Nick Saban detailed the end of the year was filled with “internal distractions” and questioned whether the team “lost our humility.”

“I think we lost what I call ‘The Bama factor.’ We’ve always played with a lot of discipline, and we’ve always had people being responsible and accountable to do their job at a high level and high standard on a pretty consistent basis, and we’ve always had people put the team first.

“From the LSU game on last year, I thought we started to lose that a little bit.”

During the interview, Saban faulted himself as well, calling it “disappointing” the team didn’t hold it together and placed that responsibility upon him.

The quotes sound as if Alabama just completely fell apart last year. In actuality, they had just one bad day against one of the greatest college football teams in modern history.

But this is why Saban is one of the best coaches in history. Winning titles is his only goal, and the 2019 National Championship loss was an unacceptable embarrassment.

With that in mind, Saban’s message is the right one. But it doesn’t change the fact that his team will face the same “complacency” challenge in 2019.

Coaches like Saban never want to lose, but a bit later in the interview with McElroy, the Alabama coach essentially admitted a regular season loss might not have been the worst thing for his squad last year.

“Sometimes when you lose, people are much more willing to say, ‘Ok, I’m going to look in the mirror now and what is the truth about what we did or didn’t do?’”

Saban is absolutely right, and it’s rung true throughout his tenure at Alabama. Despite the Crimson Tide maintaining its dynasty status since 2009, Alabama has only gone undefeated once under Saban.

That was back in 2009. During Saban’s four other championship seasons, the Crimson Tide suffered one loss.

Even more interesting, the last two times Alabama entered the national championship game undefeated, Saban’s squad lost.

Now, the quick and easy counterargument to these points is Clemson went 15-0 last year. However, it was a different kind of undefeated season for the Tigers. Clemson was tested against Syracuse and Texas A&M and went through a quarterback controversy early in the season. Pundits also doubted the Tigers’ strength of schedule because the ACC was so weak last year.

Meanwhile, Alabama was seemingly in the discussion for the greatest college football team of all time or at least the best Saban team ever heading into November.

Obviously, Saban would like to keep his team motivated and humbled until lifting the championship trophy again next January. Well, that’s easier said than done.

That’s especially true if losing is the best way Saban can keep his squad focused. Because looking at Alabama’s schedule, the Crimson Tide could again run the table.

Alabama’s toughest game before the SEC Championship will probably come in College Station against Texas A&M on Oct. 12. LSU is probably the other big test, but those Tigers come to Tuscaloosa this fall.

If Alabama beats Texas A&M and thrashes LSU again, will complacency set in once more? All signs point to quarterback Tua Tugovailoa competing for the Heisman Trophy for the second straight year too. Will his hype and talk of him going at the top of the 2020 NFL Draft be an “internal distraction?”

Alabama will undoubtedly be in the national title discussion again this fall. Unless they suffer a surprising loss, Saban and his team leaders will need to navigate the mental aspect of the sport better down the stretch to win another championship.