Alabama Crimson Tide in familiar territory but another title run no guarantee

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images /

Well, doesn’t this look familiar? Another one-loss Alabama Crimson Tide team in another title run.

Santa Claus is still busy making out his nice and naughty lists for the year and Alabama has a mark in the L column. Die-hard Bama fans can rattle off the autumn setbacks in their sleep. LSU 2011. Texas A&M 2012. Auburn 2013. Ole Miss 2014. Ole Miss 2015. Auburn 2017. LSU and Auburn 2019. Texas A&M 2021.

Now add Tennessee 2022.

Alabama Crimson Tide Title Run History

Four times during the Nick Saban era an imperfect Tide team has regrouped in stellar fashion, running the table after regular season defeats to win national titles in 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2017. The 2014 and 2021 squads came mighty close, the former falling in the playoff semis and the latter falling in the playoff title game. The 2013 team didn’t have a shot at a title, losing to Auburn in the regular season finale in the pre-playoff era.

Can this 2022 Alabama Crimson Tide team follow the leads of those imperfect title-winning Tide teams? Recent history certainly affords some optimism. As does the fact that Alabama has a coach named Nick Saban and a quarterback named Bryce Young on its side.

Saban, considered the greatest college football coach of all time, has been the mastermind behind Alabama’s sundry rises from the ashes over the last 11 years. And Young, if he’s not leading the Tide to victory, is at the very least putting the team on his shoulders and doing everything humanly possible to carry it to the very cusp of victory.

Bama fans half expected the Pasadena playmaker extraordinaire to somehow, someway make a diving rescue of the ball that slipped off Jahmyr Gibbs’ fingertips and bat it back up into the air so Gibbs could catch it on the rebound. Or soar through the night sky a few seconds later to steer Will Reichard’s off-target kick back toward the middle of the uprights. The reigning Heisman winner, who even shines in Dr Pepper Fansville commercials, does everything else, right?

But it’s not just the coach and the quarterback.

Also working to Alabama’s advantage as it tries to rebound from Saturday’s 52-49 setback is the fact that this is the first time since 2010 that the Tide’s regular-season hiccup has come at the hands of an SEC East opponent. No need to worry about losing out on a trip to Atlanta because of a head-to-head tiebreaker. No need to have to scoreboard watch and hope so-and-so knocks off so-and-so in order for the Tide to still have a shot at sneaking in.

It’s no fun losing to a rival, but in the big picture of what Alabama wants to accomplish year in and year out, Saturday’s toe stub in Neyland Stadium was about as harmless of a defeat as there can be in terms of keeping season goals intact.

No, the loss itself isn’t the problem. It’s the warts and frailties this Alabama Crimson Tide team has shown time and time again this season that’s the problem. And, yes, there is — to the chagrin of Bama fans — more than one wart and one frailty attached to this Bama team.

There are the penalties. The 15-penalty flag fest in Austin in September was supposed to be an aberration. But then came the 17-penalty fiasco in Knoxville last Saturday. There’s the tepid pass rush, made downright baffling due to the fact this defense doesn’t just feature the best QB hunter not named Derrick Thomas in Alabama football history but also fleet-footed edge rushers like Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell. There’s the secondary that got absolutely lit up by one Jalin Hyatt last Saturday. And there are the worrisome signs in recent weeks that maybe Reichard isn’t as automatic as originally thought.

Fact is, this flawed crimson-clad football team is one additional errant Reichard kick and a better conceived, last-second goal line play call from 4-3 and unranked right now.


Other teams have less clear Playoff paths. dark. Next

Run the table? Make it back to the playoffs? Win another natty? Those one-loss Bama teams of 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2017 did it. Just gotta wonder right now if 2022 Alabama, even with Saban and Young, is good enough and disciplined enough and steely enough to do likewise.