Alabama's fall from the No. 1 spot was shocking because of the dominance they showed throughout the early part of the season, but if you put the entire season into the proper perspective, it really shouldn't shock us.
I too got a little caught up in the Tide dominance talk, but there a few key factors to remember as we look at our college football reality.
This Was Supposed To Be A Rebuilding Year
The term "rebuilding" can get a bit muddled in Tuscaloosa because of the immense talent factory Nick Saban has created. In reality, the team lost seven starters from the defense and five on offense.
These starters weren't just a few seniors that were playing because of tenure and sentimental attachment. Trent Richardson, Dre Kirkpatrick, Donta Hightower, Mark Barron and Courtney Upshaw were all taken in the first two rounds of the 2012 NFL draft.
Sure, the Tide had talented players waiting in the wings, but this wasn't the same squad that won it all in 2011. It's easy to just think: "oh, this is just another Crimson juggernaut," but the fact is, this is largely a different group of players.
Alabama didn't begin the season as No. 1 on any of the three major polls (AP, USA Today or ESPN). That happened—or didn't happen—for a reason. There were questions about this team's ability to come together with so many new starters.
The fast start just made many of us forget.
Before the LSU game, the Tide Were Largely Untested
Alabama blew threw an overrated Michigan team to start the season, and from there they beat six straight unranked opponents by a combined score of 246-44.
That is a dominant stretch, but the truth is, they really hadn't faced any tough opponents. They blew out Mississippi State 38-7 in Tuscaloosa which is a nice win, but not necessarily an indication that the team is invincible.
Then they scored the exciting win over LSU in Baton Rouge.
It was a huge victory, and it really seemed to support Alabama's inevitable place in the BCS title game. However, I contend that game really showed what was needed to give Alabama trouble.
Besides the obvious overall talent requisite, Zach Mettenberger's performance (24-of-35, 298 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions) proved that if you get good to great quarterback play, you can compete with Alabama.
The Tide's front seven is very difficult to run against without some balance. Most SEC teams don't have the type of player at QB that can make the throws to make Alabama respect that aspect of the offense.
The following week Johnny Manziel built on Mettenberger's performance and Texas A&M came in to Tuscaloosa and earned a win.
All is Not Lost
For Alabama, anything besides a national championship is settling. It may be unfair, but it's true. The Tide could still play in the BCS title game, but they need some help from two of the following groups of teams: Baylor or Texas is the first group and Stanford, Oregon State and Oregon's opponent in the Pac-12 championship comprise the second group.
If Kansas State loses to either Baylor or Texas, and Oregon loses to any of its three opponents, the Tide could sneak back into one of the top two spots. They still have to defeat Georgia in the SEC title game, which is no small task, but it's possible.
If they can pull off that trick, I'd say this was a pretty amazing season for a team that was supposed to be rebuilding.
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