BCS National Championship: Decoding the Tide's Messages
I watched a game on January 9, 2012 that sent constant spikes of adrenaline throughout my system for a solid 60 minutes. No, it wasn't a replay of the Baylor Bowl or the Fiesta Bowl—it was the BCS title game.
Now, with a score of 21-0 and LSU only crossing the 50 one time all game, I completely understand why the game was not as interesting to anyone not rooting for the Tide (or scouting for the NFL).
Only an Alabama fan cared if the Tide could go 60 minutes without a penalty. Only a Tide fan could actually find an adrenaline rush when LSU approached the 50 in the fourth quarter. Only fans that watched a defensive monster all year could legitimately get excited about what Alabama did in the title game.
Throughout the entire game, I noticed some things that made me wonder what Nick Saban was REALLY trying to say. I don't know him personally, but I know what I saw.
These are some observations and interpretations from the title game that may have gone unnoticed.
The option offense made LSU look good in the second half of the first encounter. The option offense was a large part of the reason Georgia Southern looked so good against Alabama (The game wasn't really out of reach for the Eagles until the fourth quarter).
I thought about the 2009 SEC Championship Game, and then I watched it again. I wanted the Tide to come out and do that to LSU. Not only did they do that, but they took ownership of the field like I've never seen before.
There's no way I would make a statement that Nick Saban did anything on the field for the benefit of the media. We are not his responsibility, we are a thorn in his side. However I can say this: I don't know if the statement was directed at us, but the title game loudly proclaimed: "we do NOT have a problem with the option."
I have no idea whose idea it was to make the 50 yardline equivalent to the end zone on defense. If the opportunity arises, I will ask someone that knows. I do know that there's no way a team defends the 50 like 'Bama did in the fourth quarter without some kind of pact.
Kenny Hilliard rushed from the 43 to the 50 and was immediately met with a trio of crimson jerseys to manhandle him to the ground. Granted, this defense didn't let much happen in the entire game, but you could see the looks on the Tide faces on the field. It was ferocious. They took the 50 very personally during that game.
I don't know if it was intentional, but I clearly heard, "not on my side of the field, and you can forget the end zone."
The Upcoming 2012 Season
(I know the photo isn't from the title game, but it's a great shot of Sunseri in action outside of special teams.)
Nick Saban did something in the title game that we have all come to expect in regular-season games: he substituted liberally. This is something we have all come to expect, because Saban knows better than we do that he's not going to keep his starters very long.
Sickness and injury plagued the Crimson Tide against Georgia Southern, as he pointed out in the post-game press conference. On the bright side, some players got time on the field against the wishbone-esque offense that the Eagles run so well.
Against LSU, there were some substitutions that some may have questioned, especially if LSU had burned us with a big play. I distinctly remember Vinnie Sunseri as a safety in the fourth quarter.
I got more and more excited as the game wore on, because I got the sense that Saban was saying, "I've got plenty of time to teach these guys what they need to know, and I'm not waiting until September to do it."
He had guys out on the field gaining national championship game experience. That's got to be worth at LEAST three regular-season games.
Nobody has the ability to perfectly predict what would have happened in the title game if the November roles were reversed. What we do know is that the mistakes that were made in November played no small part in the 14th national championship flag being raised in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
These "boys" (best defense in the nation) became champions on January 9th, and the demons they had to suppress from November 5 to January 9 were fierce. Nothing weighs on you like the feeling that you cost a team something you can never repay.
Almost everyone on the field had a "what if" to take back to the dorms with them. In New Orleans, they were able to silence the voices in their head. At the end of the game, everyone watching saw the Tide hoist the crystal ball. They proclaimed, "we are champions."
No amount of wishing can take that away from them. Roll Tide Roll!
This year has been a wonderful one for all involved, including the fans. I sat down to write a prediction article about 2012 that would cover some National Signing Day and possibly some NFL Draft speculation.
I realized, as I started to type, that I wasn't done with 2011 yet. The Tide just won it all on Monday. The players worked their tails off all year long to make that happen. There will be plenty of time and internet space to predict what could happen in the coming weeks.
As for what actually got written: I saw some things on Monday night that gave me more hope than I already had for 2012, and all I can say is, "Bring it on, Michigan!"