Can Alabama Win Two Trap Games In 2014?


The Alabama Crimson Tide are considered the team to beat in the SEC in 2014, according to media members at SEC Media Days last week in Hoover, Alabama. This despite some major question marks heading into the 2014 season for Nick Saban and the Tide.

Granted, preseason media predictions rarely align with the crowned champion in Atlanta, but the vote does show a general trust in Nick Saban’s proven system, despite the Crimson Tide’s lack of a starting quarterback and young defensive secondary.

The general consensus is that Saban’s system can thrive without an experienced quarterback under center, and with Alabama’s favorable schedule, whoever walks away with the starting job will have time to develop before conference play heats up.

With Alabama and SEC fans already gearing up for the first and last weekends in November, what if the Crimson Tide’s biggest tests weren’t from SEC West powerhouses LSU and Auburn?

Theres no doubt that under Saban, Alabama’s biggest tests year in and year out have come against their SEC East rivals. Many would even make the case that the Alabama-LSU rivalry has surpassed Alabama-Tennessee as the second biggest rivalry of the year.

With so much riding on these two games, including the mental, physical and emotional toll on the players and coaching staff, even a hyper-focused coach like Nick Saban might fall victim to looking past an opponent or two.

Flashback to the 2010 season. After coming off the first national championship in the Saban era, the Crimson Tide were chasing back-to-back championships with arguably the most talented team in the nation returning on both sides of the ball.

A week after destroying No. 7 Florida in Tuscaloosa 31–7, No. 1 Alabama travelled to Columbia, South Carolina to face the No. 19 South Carolina Gamecocks.

Most of you know the rest of the story. South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia led the Gamecocks to a 35–21 win on the best performance of his college career.

It’s a stretch to say that Alabama overlooked South Carolina on that October afternoon. It was a big game that matched big coaches and two teams that only meet every couple years. ESPN’s College GameDay was even onsite for the game, but the Crimson Tide failed to take care of business and would end up losing two more games on the year.

Luckily, Alabama doesn’t have to face South Carolina this season, but there are two games in particular that could sneak up on the Crimson Tide.

Ole Miss – October 4

Now, don’t get me wrong, Hugh Freeze is no Steve Spurrier and the 2014 Florida Gators aren’t as talented as the 2010 variant, but there are some similarities between these two trap games.

The Alabama-Florida game on September 9 will be the first conference game as a starter for whoever wins the starting job for the Crimson Tide. That could pose some major issues and stress leading up to the Ole Miss game.

Look for Alabama’s offensive scheme to still be fairly conservative under new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin as the Tide hits the road for the first time in conference play.

Hugh Freeze’s stellar recruits from two years ago are now sophomores, and don’t forget Ole Miss has one of the SEC’s top receivers returning in Laquon Treadwell. The fast-paced, forgiving Freeze offensive system combined with Ole Miss’ young returning talent on defense could spell a bit of trouble for Nick Saban and Alabama.

Keep in mind, Alabama did romp the Rebels in Tuscaloosa last season to the tune of a 25–0 shutout in one of the Tide’s most impressive defensive performances of 2013. The Crimson Tide will more than likely escape Oxford unscathed, but it won’t be easy coming off a test against a surely improved Florida Gators team the week prior.

Mississippi State – November 15

Two trap games against two teams from the Magnolia State? The state that hasn’t produced an SEC Champion since 1940? That’s right. Any game following a road trip to Baton Rouge is a dangerous one in the SEC, especially for Alabama and Nick Saban.

If history is any indicator, Alabama and LSU will go toe to toe in the Bayou to possibly determine who represents the SEC West in Atlanta.

Dan Mullen is still looking for that signature win in the SEC West to prove that he belongs, and the Bulldogs have some sneaky talent returning, especially on offense.

Several media members have tagged Mississippi State junior quarterback Dak Prescott as a dark horse to take home the Heisman Trophy. Although that’s a long shot, Prescott has the skill and the confidence to have a big game against the Crimson Tide.

Nick Saban has only lost to Mississippi State once in 13 SEC seasons, and that loss came in the middle of Alabama’s disastrous four-game losing streak in 2007, which included a loss to Louisiana Monroe in Tuscaloosa.

If Alabama is going to slip up against someone other than LSU or Auburn, Mississippi State is the most likely candidate in my mind.

The Bulldogs are poised for a big season and Dan Mullen has his eyes on something other than the Gator Bowl.

It doesn’t help the Tide’s cause that it will meet LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn over the course of the month of November, but Nick Saban is no stranger to tough stretches in conference play.

I truly believe that both Ole Miss and Mississippi State will both end the 2014 season with at least one victory over the top three teams in the SEC West – Alabama, Auburn and LSU – but will Alabama account for one of those wins?