Expectations. It’s a word that is tossed around in Alabama as if it were some sort of viral infection. The media loves to talk about how Nick Saban is being forced to “manage expectations,” as if he were passing out protection and writing scripts for Valtrex.
Forget about it, Nick. ‘Bama fans are spreading expectations like teenagers in the backseat of a Chevy.
The polls haven’t helped any. Preaching abstinence is tough when the fans are inundated with tempting images in the media, all of them proclaiming ‘Bama the No. 2 team in the country.
I feel it’s my duty to help. Tide fans should think of this as a collective cold shower. The fact is, as good as Alabama is, there are still plenty of things that could keep them from playing for a National Championship this season.
John Parker Wilson
Wilson has been praised this season for his “game management” skills and his lack of turnovers. What he hasn’t been praised for is his ability to throw a football.
How many times has freshman phenom Julio Jones been running wide open behind the defense only to watch as Wilson tosses one into the cheap seats?
Wilson has thrived in Jim McElwain’s offense, mainly because it is built around short, simple routes that don’t require touch passes. Against an aggressive Kentucky defense that stayed in man-to-man, the Tide failed to stretch the field by throwing deep, in no small part because Wilson simply couldn’t put the ball where it needed to be.
The Tide offense will be in deep trouble if Wilson can’t figure out how to throw the long ball, and you can bet that a lot more defenses are going to stack the line and go man-to-man until Wilson beats them with his arm.
Alabama’s first-string can play with anyone in the country. Their second-team would struggle against their own cheerleaders.
Remember what happened when all-galaxy lineman Andre Smith sat out against Tulane? The Green Wave held its own on the line of scrimmage, and the Tide escaped with an ugly win.
Alabama has to hope that the line stays healthy and there are no key injuries on defense. Otherwise the rest of the season starts to look a lot less rosy.
Glen Coffee’s Fumbles
Who knew that coffee went so well with butterfingers? Coffee has been outstanding as a running back, but he’s also coughed up the ball more times than Tide fans should be comfortable with. He’s gotten lucky enough to get the fumbles back in a few key situations, but his luck could easily run out.
How would the Georgia game have turned out if that Georgia defensive player hadn’t swatted John Parker Wilson in the face, drawing a roughing-the-passer penalty and negating that Coffee fumble? What if that Kentucky player hadn’t let the ball squirt out from under him and go out of bounds?
SEC Coaches in the Hot Seat
It’s pretty much a given that the Alabama game will represent the last-gasp chance for two SEC coaches to save their jobs by knocking off a hated rival.
Phillip Fulmer’s Tennessee team has been kicked around all season, but he could find some redemption in Knoxville if the Vols could manage to pull off the upset. This added incentive could be dangerous for ‘Bama if they come out flat or with injuries, and playing in Neyland Stadium won’t help.
Across the state, Auburn has already seen one coach fired this season, and after the debacle that was the Arkansas game, many are now wondering if they fired the right coach. Tommy Tuberville just might be able to stick around, though, if he could hang his seventh in a row on the Tide.
Playing at home should be no consolation to ‘Bama: Auburn has never lost in Bryant-Denny stadium.
By the way, although Sylvester Croom isn’t likely to be on the hot seat, Sly has had ‘Bama’s number for a while now. He probably still holds a grudge about them taking his name off that award.
Assuming that Alabama can navigate the rest of the perils it faces in the second half of the season, the season will basically come down to the LSU game. If the Crimson Tide walks into Baton Rouge undefeated, this game will be the biggest thing to hit Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina.
If you could get them to answer honestly, many LSU fans probably despise Katrina a little less.
LSU is still suffering from a jilted lover syndrome over Nick Saban’s flight to Alabama via a long layover in Miami. Every time LSU loses, the Tiger faithful sigh, look over towards Tuscaloosa, and wonder what might have been.
Bear Bryant at one point had to wear a football helmet during the Georgia Tech game because students were chucking batteries at him. Nick Saban better pack Kevlar.
An undefeated Alabama will almost certainly be in the BCS Championship Game. A one-loss Alabama will almost certainly not.
The problem is that a loss to almost any of the remaining schools on ‘Bama’s schedule will kill the Tide’s chances. Sure, there are some schools that can lose to mediocre teams and still be in the National Championship picture. Alabama’s not one of those schools.
The only remaining game that Alabama could lose and still hope to remain in contention is LSU, but a loss to the Tigers likely means they will miss out on the SEC Championship game, a game that they would desperately need to get back in the hunt.
Losing a nail-biter to Florida in the SEC Championship game wouldn’t be so bad, except that Florida will likely then be ushered to Miami. Losing to Georgia in the SEC Championship will just negate Alabama’s most impressive win.
In short, Alabama needs to win out to have a shot, and there are plenty of reasons to think that they may not be able to do so.
Alabama fans have every right to enjoy this unlikely season. But the race to Miami is just getting started, and there are plenty of ways for the Tide to implode along the way.