Alabama’s Football Mission in 2018 – Eliminate The Need For Help In Getting To Championship Game
By: Larry Burton
No one has the resume that Nick Saban has in college football, but as good as he is, it hasn’t come without a lot of help from other teams. Only once since being in Tuscaloosa has Saban gone undefeated in a season and not needed some kind of help just to make the playoffs. This takes making the playoffs out of your own hands and leaves you relying on luck or help from another team just to get into playoffs.
Nick Saban could very well be just another good coach with two championships, one at LSU and one at Alabama and everyone saying that Urban Meyer is the best coach in college football. That is had Alabama not just got lucky and backed into the playoffs because a higher rated team failed to seal their own deal and let Alabama get back into the mix.
In 2017 last season, had Ohio State not had a horrendous game against Iowa or a yawning win against Wisconsin, they would have had Alabama’s spot in last year’s championship.
In the 2016 season, Alabama was undefeated going into the playoffs, but lost to Clemson on a late game touchdown. That year they just needed help from their own defense, not another team.
2015 saw the Tide lose to Ole Miss and they got lucky after dropping as low as 13th in the polls. Week after week there was one upset after another to help them climb back up. But one miracle play got them into the SEC title game. Arkansas was an underdog to the Ole Miss team that almost killed Alabama’s season. Behind by seven in overtime and faced with a 4th and 25, and the game was seemed all but over. However, following a lateral pass, running back Alex Collins found a hole in the Ole Miss defense and was able to convert. This was followed by an Arkansas touchdown and a successful two point conversion, which gave Arkansas the 53–52 OT win and helped put Bama in the SEC Championship over the Rebels. Talk about a one in a million play.
The 2014 season also saw an Ole Miss win nearly cost the Tide a shot at making the playoffs. They dropped as low as seventh place before having other undefeated teams drop games who were ranked ahead of them. Of course in the end, once again they needed help from the defense as Ohio State ran all over them in the first round of the championship series.
2013 was the famous “Kick Six” game where Auburn ran a missed field goal back for a last second touchdown and a win. That loss put Auburn, not Alabama in the championship game.
It was the same deal in 2012, after losing to Texas A&M in early November, Alabama dropped to number four and both Kansas State and Oregon would both have to lose a game for Alabama to make the playoffs. Ironically, both teams were upset the very next week and Alabama slid into the championship game. Talk about getting the help you need.
2011 was almost the ultimate need help season. After losing to LSU late in the year, not playing the SEC Championship game and having an undefeated Oklahoma State and Stanford now ahead of them in the polls, Alabama would have to have not only both those teams lose, but somehow convince the BCS that having two SEC teams in the championship game would be a good thing. They got the help and won the championship.
In 2010 the just stank up the season with three regular season losses, so they didn’t need help from anyone after killing their own season.
2009 was the only season where the Tide didn’t really need any help, they went all season without a loss, won the SEC and took down Texas in the Championship game. This was the one and only season that Alabama either won or got into the playoffs without having to rely on other teams to lose to get them there.
Now let me say this loud and clear, there is no better coach in college football than Nick Saban. Yes, he’s needed help to get to the playoffs and the championship game, but the fact that he does so at the incredible rate he does says it all and the winning percentage he has once he gets there is impressive too. You may as well nickname him Coach Playoff as no other coach has been to more than Saban.
It’s also been pointed out that if Alabama had not needed help last and defeated Auburn, that playing in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia may have had them further beaten up on defense, surely more tired with less rest and maybe not in as good shape going into the playoffs without having more than a month off to rest and prepare. While that is just conjecture, it does make a valid point that Alabama certainly did benefit from the time off. But it’s help like this that might not be forthcoming in the future, so taking care of business is each and every game continues to be the focus of the team.
Before getting on the bus after the Auburn game, I had quick conversations with some of the Alabama players and each said that Saban had told them that the season was not over, that may still have a chance to play to their potential and win it all but he also hoped that the team would remember this feeling and use it as motivation to finish out the season. While most felt they may still have a shot a championship, you could tell they were nervous about it.
“I hate that we had a chance to take care business ourselves and we didn’t do it.” said defensive back Levi Wallace. “We know we’re one of the best teams in the country, now we just have to hope that that all the others do too.” he finished.
This season, Alabama has a chance to take care of business. With a combination of a favorable schedule and a very talented team, they could do just that. That is of course the goal of the team each year, but this season season could very well be the season that they once again go undefeated, at least in the regular season. Another game against Georgia in the SEC Championship seems likely and tough, but getting to the playoffs without having to rely on help once again is something the team is focused on once again.
Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter