Can Alabama Fall into "Trap" Against Utah? Don't Believe What You Hear

Ingram WorleyCorrespondent IDecember 17, 2008

I caught an ESPN bowl preview segment on SportsCenter today, and heard exactly what I had expected to hear.

The "trendy" pick in the Sugar Bowl is Utah in an upset victory against Alabama.

According to Lee Corso, the model of consistency that he is, Alabama is too distraught over the disappointing loss to Florida in the SEC championship game to regain focus and play well against an underrated Utah team.

Corso picked Utah in his "BCS upset special," and Kirk Herbstreit agreed with him.

Apparently, the Alabama players, coaches, and fans were so hyped up over a chance to play for a national championship again, they will not be able to handle "coming down" to play a game that is essentially meaningless in the national picture.

You may find this hard to believe, but I disagree.

While the game, in reality, will mean the difference between finishing third in the final polls or 10th, I believe it means a little more to these guys than that.

From the perspective of the players and coaches, I think they may have a little chip on their shoulder from being left out of the conversation concerning who should play for the national championship, even though they have one loss—just like the rest of the contenders.

Although I knew there was no chance of Alabama ending the season at No. 2, it actually has a fairly valid argument.

If you compare the one-loss teams across the board, Alabama has the "best" loss, if there is such a thing. Alabama lost to Florida, which most people agree is the best team in the country.

Don't get me wrong: My point is not to complain that Alabama was unfairly left out of the national championship game. To the contrary, I understand that a loss that late in the season, regardless of the opponent, ended the team's chances.

Which brings me back to Utah.

This game is a mirror image of the Georgia-Hawaii Sugar Bowl of last year. Georgia had a great season, and drew a non-BCS conference opponent in the bowl game.  Hawaii, like Utah, was undefeated.

You heard a lot of the same quotes that you are hearing now. It was supposed to be a "trap game" for Georgia. How could its players get up for that game, knowing they were so close to playing for a title?

Obviously, they had no troubles.  Georgia ran Hawaii out of the dome in a rout, silencing the doubters and going a long way toward earning a preseason No. 1 2008 ranking.

Now, it's Alabama's turn.

Utah, by all accounts, is a very sound football team. I will not pretend to know much about them. I think that regardless of conference affiliation, any team that runs the table needs to be taken very seriously.  They bring the nation's longest winning streak into the game, a streak that includes wins over BCS-conference foes.

Like most Alabama fans, I was devastated by the Florida game. It doesn't matter who you are—if you go that long without losing, it is painful.

I can't help but think that the team was in the same state.

But, remember, it has been a while since Alabama played on this kind of stage. I think that while they needed some time to get over the Florida game, the four-week layoff will have provided that. Plus, I haven't seen Nick Saban let these guys get complacent so far this year.

Furthermore, I think the team will be jacked up to send their seniors out as winners.  This senior class deserves the bulk of the credit for the great year, and the younger guys on the team recognize that. The team will be ready to run through a wall to make sure these guys don't leave on a sour note.

And as far as the fans go, have you ever been to a Sugar Bowl?  If there was ever a place to get "prepped" for a football game, it is New Orleans. Regardless of the bowl-initiated ticket-split, I expect something along the lines of an 80-20 percent advantage of fans in attendance for the Crimson Tide. This makes this a virtual home game.

So in conclusion, when you factor in the coaching, the senior leadership, the underclassmen on a mission, and the fans, I can't see Alabama losing this game.  I expect a competitive game into the fourth quarter, but I think Alabama wins by 14 when all is said and done.

On the other hand, I have been accused of being a little biased. But that is untrue.  I am VERY biased.