Alabama planned on being in a BCS bowl following the 2013 season, just not this one.
The Crimson Tide will play Oklahoma in Thursday night's Allstate Sugar Bowl. Or, as it could be known, "the scene of the crime."
Then-No. 4 Alabama was blown out 31-17 on Jan. 2, 2009 by then-No. 6 Utah in a setting that is eerily similar to the one it will step into against the Sooners.
That Crimson Tide team entered the SEC Championship Game undefeated with hopes of a crystal football, only to see those hopes dashed 31-20 by then-No. 4 Florida and quarterback Tim Tebow.
This year's team entered the final week of the regular season with an unblemished record again with the No. 1 ranking and again squared off with the No. 4 team in the country. The opponent—intra-state rival Auburn—was different, but the result and heartbreak were the same—if not more pronounced—following the 34-28 loss to the Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
So is head coach Nick Saban's crew primed for a letdown?
Not a chance.
This isn't the same Alabama team as the one following the 2008 season. That team wasn't properly "Saban-ized." This team is.
It takes on the persona of its head coach and fights every day against perfection—not the other opponent.
"We come to practice every day, and we are out there to get better," quarterback A.J. McCarron said in quotes released by the Sugar Bowl. "We aren't just going through the motions."
Is McCarron going to suddenly lose sight of that goal in his final game with the Crimson Tide?
This is the same guy who, late in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game up 42-14 on Notre Dame, got into a shoving match with senior center Barrett Jones over blocking assignments.
In my best Allen Iverson voice, "we're talking about blocking assignments."
The quarterback of the defense is also making sure that his team doesn't suffer the same Sugar Bowl fate of the 2008 team. Linebacker C.J. Mosley—the 2013 Butkus Award winner—is also focused on perfection.
"We have to make sure that everyone is staying focused - the main thing is that when we get to practice we are doing the same things that we have done all year," he said in quotes released by the Sugar Bowl.
Don't fall into the trap of labeling this game as a potential letdown. The only letdown Alabama has suffered over the last three seasons was the first quarter against Texas A&M last season, when Johnny Manziel punched the Tide in the mouth and then hung on for a win.
Aside from that, the Crimson Tide has been up for every game. Sure, they lost games over that stretch, but it wasn't due to lack of preparation. They just got beat.
If that happens on Thursday, so be it. But it won't be due to lack of preparation or focus. There's nothing to suggest this team will do that only in one game in the same venue from five years ago.
That seems a bit silly, doesn't it?
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