Although Alabama no longer controls its own destiny in the national title race, a glance at recent history would suggest that the Tide has a lot to play for in the final three weeks of the season.
As final seconds ticked off the clock inside Bryant-Denny Stadium during the Tide’s 29-24 loss to Texas A&M, the immediate chatter afterward turned to the damage that had been done to the Tide’s bid to repeat as national champions.
While that sentiment is presently accurate, Kansas State and Oregon fans may want to hold off on booking hotel rooms in Fort Lauderdale for now.
After all, the fun may just be beginning with respect to seismic shifts at the top of the polls.
In fact, since the SEC began its streak of consecutive national titles in 2006, only once have both teams that were paired atop the BCS standings in the second week of November reached the national title game (2010).
There are a few reasons that Tide supporters—and those wishing to see an SEC school claim a crystal football for the seventh consecutive season—should still hold out hope.
For starters, consider that Nick Saban’s club was in the exact same position last year before chaos ensued.
A November home setback to LSU was forgiven, as losses by Boise State, Stanford and Oklahoma State opened the door for Alabama to earn a rematch against the Tigers, and we all know what happened next.
With Alabama falling just three spots to No. 4 in the latest BCS standings, the Tide will need two of the three teams in front of them to stumble.
Even if Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame run the table and the Tide are shutout of the title game, there is still a lot left to accomplish this season.
With a win this weekend against Western Carolina, the Tide will secure their fifth consecutive 10-win season—which has not happened at Alabama since 1971-75.
Considering the turmoil going on with the Auburn program, next weekend’s Iron Bowl appears to be the most lopsided meeting in recent memory.
Earning its fourth victory in five seasons against its hated in-state rival—and wiping away the stain of the last meeting between the two schools inside Bryant-Denny Stadium—will serve as ample motivation for the Tide to add to the Tigers’ season of misery.
A win in its regular season finale would also secure a trip to the SEC title game to face No. 5 Georgia—which would add another signature win on its resume while clinching just its third league title since 1999.
With a potential SEC championship and a BCS bowl berth very much in play, the loss to the Aggies could benefit the Tide if they choose to learn from it.
The aura of invincibility surrounding Alabama’s program has evaporated after its struggles in the last two weeks.
But with that realization, the club can gain a renewed sense of hunger to regain the top spot by improving one game at a time.
For Saban and his players, they no longer have to carry the burden of worrying about repeating as national champions.
That process will work itself out.
As for the Tide, it’s back to the basics, with results (on the field and for others around the nation) taking a backseat to Saban’s process.