There's reason for optimism for the Tide.
Just because the Alabama Crimson Tide stumbled their way to the finish line in 2013, don’t expect one of college football’s most storied programs to simply fall off its perch.
In fact, the last time Alabama had a similar slide, the team wound up winning three of the next four BCS titles while posting a 49-5 record during that span.
Back in 2008, the Tide were 12-0 and headed to the SEC title game as the No. 1-ranked team in the nation. Although the opponent was No. 2-ranked Florida, an Alabama victory was fully expected.
Instead, quarterback Tim Tebow led the Gators to the upset, 31-20, and left the Tide settling for a berth into the Sugar Bowl.
To add further insult to injury, Alabama was humbled in that game by mid-major Utah, 31-17, in one of the biggest shockers of the bowl season.
Fast-forward five years, the Tide were 11-0 and No. 1 in all of the polls, as they headed on the road to face in-state rival Auburn. Even though the Tigers’ 2013 resurgence was impressive, nobody really gave them a shot.
Yet low and behold, Auburn escaped out of Jordan-Hare Stadium with the improbable 34-28 win, clinching the SEC West division title over Alabama in the process.
Once again, the Tide had to settle for a berth in the Sugar Bowl. And once again, the team was humbled as the favorite.
This time around, it was 17-point underdog Oklahoma.
Both the losses to the Utes and Sooners were equally unexpected and embarrassing. The shortcomings also left the Alabama faithful questioning the direction of the team heading into the next season.
But just like the Utah loss did for the 2009 squad, expect the loss to Oklahoma to serve as a wake up call for the Tide in 2014.
Although the team was rarely tested last season, there were a couple of instances when Alabama seemed to lift its foot off the gas in the second half.
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Take the Week 2 matchup with Texas A&M—a game in which the Tide had quarterback Johnny Manziel and the Aggies on the ropes, leading 42-21 early in the fourth quarter.
But instead of putting the game to bed, Alabama surrendered 21 points and fumbled at the goal line to give Texas A&M a fighting chance. In fact, the only thing that preserved the 49-42 victory was the clock running out.
The same thing happened against the Tigers in the season finale.
Late in the second quarter, the Tide held a 21-7 advantage. However, Auburn managed to score the game’s next two touchdowns to knot things up at 21 going into the fourth.
Up 28-21, Alabama had the ball inside the Tigers’ 20 twice within the final six minutes. Both times, the Tide came away with zero points.
That proved costly when Auburn scored 13 points in the final 32 seconds to complete the shocking upset.
Those are the kinds of things champions don’t do.
You can bet head coach Nick Saban will be pounding that into his team during the offseason. Over and over again.
How will the Tide fare in 2014?
And you know what? That’s the best possible thing that could happen for some of these guys on the team.
More specifically, it’s beneficial for players like running back T.J. Yeldon and wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Those two both won a BCS title in their first season in college. All they’ve known is what it feels like to be at the top.
Well, guess what? Now, things aren’t looking too bright. Now, both Yeldon and Cooper will face an entire offseason of criticism and doubt.
But a true champion isn’t remembered for how many wins he collects. He’s remembered for how he gets back onto his feet after being knocked down.
Fortunately for the Tide, nobody does that better than Saban.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of CFBstats.com.