Here is a statement of fact. It is a fun time to be an Alabama football fan.
Since the arrival of Nick Saban at the Capstone, Alabama has quickly become the most powerful machine in major college football. If you discount the first transitional season under Saban, Alabama has lost seven games since the start of the 2008 season.
That’s right, SEVEN games in five years leading to two national championships and possibly a third this season. And almost half of those losses were in the same season.
To further enhance the belief that Alabama is the first true college football dynasty of my lifetime, with the exception of the 2008 Florida team the argument can be made that on paper man to man Alabama had better players than every single team that they have faced during this run. And that includes Auburn in 2010.
In other words, in five years there has only been a grand total of ONE game that the Tide should have lost.
If the word dynasty ever must be used in relation to college football you will not find a more fitting match than what we’re seeing in Tuscaloosa over the last half decade.
However, with all of this success seven teams have found a way to defeat the Tide. In breaking down how they did it, there may be a blue print for what an overmatched team must do to snatch a win from Saban’s greedy hands.
Here’s how they did it.
In the 2008 SEC championship game, the Tim Tebow led Gators came in with a chance to make up for an early season upset by the Ole Miss Rebels.
Early on the game was back and forth with Alabama hitting a late third quarter field goal to take a 20-17 lead.
Then Tebow took over in the fourth leading the Gators on two scoring drives to seal the game and stamp a ticket to the BCS title game.
TAKEAWAY FROM THE GAME: Your best players have to make plays in the clutch.
Everyone expected a mismatch and that’s exactly what they got. Unfortunately for the Tide, it went the opposite direction form what people were expecting.
Alabama simply did not show up.
Utah on the other hand most certainly did. Utes’ quarterback Brian Johnson schredded the Tide defense for 336 yards and 3 touchdowns and Alabama was completely inept on the offensive side of the ball.
By far the most embarrassing loss of the five year stretch, this is one the Tide definitely would like to have back.
TAKEAWAY FROM THE GAME: Any team can have a bad day every few years. It helps when your quarterback has a big game on the same day.
This game will always be remembered for the big lead blown by the Tide in the second half and for the unfortunate vandalism of the oaks at Toomer’s Corner that ensued.
Up 24-0 late in the second quarter, running back Mark Ingram broke free for a long run in what seemed at first to be the nail in the coffin of the Tigers’ hopes for a national championship.
Ingram was chased down and fumbled the ball away allowing Auburn to score a late touchdown and get back in the game.
In the second half Auburn’s two superstar players were near unstoppable as Nick Fairley seemed to start every play in the Alabama backfield and Cam Newton seemed to move the ball at will.
Two dreadful hours later, Auburn had completed the comeback. Unfortunately a more radical side of the Alabama fan base did not take the loss well and two old trees lost their lives.
TAKEAWAY FROM THE GAME: Have some star power on both sides of the ball that can take the game over when needed.
Alabama marched into Tiger Stadium ranked #6 in the country to battle the #10 Tigers.
LSU ran a run heavy attack outgaining Alabama 225-102 on the ground and capitalized on two Bama turnovers.
The game was back and forth until the fourth quarter when the Tigers took a 24-14 lead with five minutes remaining highlighted by a 75 yard bomb to Rueben Randle.
Alabama marched down the field and scored to close the gap to three points. In the final minutes, Jarrett Lee connected with Randle on a third down pass for 47 yards to seal the game.
TAKEAWAY FROM THE GAME: Win the turnover battle and make some clutch plays when they matter.
The top ranked Tide came into Columbia hoping to repeat as national champions. They left disappointed.
The reason for the victory on that day is pretty simple.
Peyton Manning put on Stephen Garcia’s uniform and ripped apart the Alabama defense.
Despite having the talent, Garcia struggled throughout his South Carolina career. And quite frankly, he was probably worse after this game.
But for one October afternoon he played out of his mind completing 85% of his passes and three touchdowns throws.
TAKEAWAY FROM THE GAME: Figure out how to make your average quarterback play like a Pro Bowl signal caller for one day.
The Game of the Century Part I was a defensive slugfest. Every one knows the story of how this played out in the end with the title game rematch, but in the regular season the Bayou Bengals escaped Tuscaloosa with a hard fought victory.
Alabama seemed to be in control for the majority of the game but missed multiple opportunities in going 2/6 in field goal tries.
After a sluggish start offensively with quarterback Jarrett Lee, Les Miles decided to attack the Alabama preparation. After making the switch to Jordan Jefferson, the Tigers began to rely heavily on a load option play that was not used early in the season with the less mobile Lee under center.
The play gave Bama fits and allowed LSU to finally start moving the ball enough to scrape out on overtime victory.
LSU also made some big plays when it mattered, most notably the Eric Reid interception of a Marquis Maze pass late in the game.
TAKEAWAY FROM THE GAME: Play great defense and give the Tide a wrinkle they haven’t prepared for and hope it works.
Alabama came into this game after an emotional victory at LSU the previous week as two touchdown favorites. A&M came into the game ready to play.
Before Verne Lundquist had reached double digits in play by play errors, the Aggies were leading 20-0 thanks to stout defense and an amazing start by freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel.
The tempo of the A&M offense gave Alabama fits and when plays broke down Manziel was able to create big plays with his legs.
In addition, the Aggies won the turnover battle 3-0 converting the first two into touchdowns with the final interception being a game saving play at the Tide’s goal line.
TAKEAWAY FROM THE GAME: Quarterback needs a big day and you must win turnover battle convincingly.
That’s it folks. Seven losses in five years is a remarkable accomplishment. While the seven teams that pulled off the victory were different in many ways, the formula for success was pretty consistent.
1) You must have a very good quarterback who plays very well in the game.
2) You must win the turnover battle.
3) You must make a few clutch plays in big moments.
If a team can accomplish those three things on any given Saturday, then they may have a chance to topple the Tide.
If they do not they will lose.
It’s really that simple.