Alabama Football: What We Learned From The SEC Championship


With each passing week we learn more about the 2014 Alabama football team. We spot trends as they emerge and puzzle at both the positive and negative outliers. In this weekly feature I highlight a handful of the lessons this team is teaching me.

Complete Game – After a couple extra days of reflection, I can’t shake the thought I had while watching the Tide throttle the Show Me Tigers – this was the most complete and well-rounded performance the Tide has had all season. Sure, there have been more spectacular performances but nothing so robust against an opponent who was interested for the full sixty.

From the short passes to Amari, the evolution demonstrated by Sims, the strong running game, and stiff run defense; the fast start, close middle, and blowout late; from Kiffin’s game plan to his chewed backside and even his predictive sideline demonstrations; from even the big plays allowed in the passing game to both the booming and smooth under pressure kicks of Great Scott; heck, even the missed field goal – no single game told the story of the 2014 Alabama Football season like Saturday’s conference championship game did. To borrow a term, this game was the Capstone on this team’s regular season slate.

This team is special – In this era of Alabama football it may be difficult to argue one team being any more or less special than another. For my taste, the 2008 team was perhaps the most special, as it was an upstart band of youngsters setting the stage for an entire era, but this 2014 squad gives it a run for its money.

Prior to the season both local and national pundits were willing to question, if not openly declare, that this Alabama championship run – dare I say dynasty – was over. The Tide had lost too many critical players over too many seasons. A new quarterback had to be unearthed as no obvious candidate had emerged from countless prime recruiting classes. The Tide had lost two consecutive games and the pace of play, to some, seemed to be passing Saban by. Of course there was also the Lane Kiffin storyline. Oh was the potential for implosion grand. And how grand an implosion it would be.

But a funny thing happened to a Saban team lacking in nationally known headliners. The upper classmen, including an astonishing number of fifth year seniors banded together to form the foundation of a championship caliber team. The leadership was palpable as were the results.

Given that Saban’s Alabama teams had always been viewed through the lens of its precocious youth (see 2008), this squad is unique in that its construction is pure old school. Long standing vets, entrenched in the system (forgotten by fans), getting their chance to extend a legacy.

For an era earmarked by teams focused on the sum of their parts, it is fun and refreshing to celebrate a team who accomplishes more greatly as a whole.

The best is still out there – To be sure, I am not yet closing the book on this season, only pausing to appreciate what has been laid bare before us. The 2014 Tide is a great and special team and as fans we’d do well to bookmark it for future reference. However, only the latest chapter has been completed, not the entire story.

To borrow a line that has perhaps been conspicuously absent from Saban’s repertoire this season, “we have not yet played our best football.”

Saban teams when afforded time, health, and proper player motivation have been devastating in the post season and I suspect the same will hold true this year.

As for the AFP crew, we’ll have – and take – plenty of time between now and then to break down the upcoming games and we look forward to engaging with you through that process, but in the meantime, if you’re booking travel I’ll take my trip to New Orleans with a Dallas chaser.