Tommy Hicks: Only team that can stop the Tide is Alabama
Any more questions?
Alabama was the unanimous choice as the No. 1 team in the nation in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, as it should be at this moment, following its 29-0 blanking of LSU … in Baton Rouge … at Tiger Stadium … at night.
The game expected to be a test for Alabama instead became yet another statement to the Crimson Tide’s strength.
Alabama’s offense would be too much for the Tigers many experts said, even against LSU’s speedy, aggressive defense, and yet it was Alabama’s defense that won the day (well, night) and in fact only added to the evaluation the Crimson Tide is the best team in the land.
Everyone else is playing for second, as had been suspected and discussed and analyzed since July. This is Alabama’s season, it appears, and there’s only one team that can stop it from winning the national championship — Alabama. The Crimson Tide itself will have to make mistakes to bring itself down this season.
In the regular season, Alabama still must face Mississippi State, The Citadel and Auburn. The Citadel is a non-factor, Mississippi State has talent and could be disruptive for a while, but is not expected to be a roadblock on Alabama’s way to the playoffs and a national title. Auburn has its own problems, but it is a rivalry game and certainly the Tigers have the tools to be a threat, if they can get out of their own way and gain some consistency on offense.
Then Alabama has to face Georgia, its national championship game opponent of a year ago, in the SEC title game in Atlanta.
Then comes the playoffs and, the guess here is, an eventual matchup (again) against Clemson in the national championship game, with Nick Saban holding the national trophy aloft at game’s end.
That’s the scenario many folks have following Saturday’s win at LSU. There isn’t talk as to whether Alabama will reach the national title game, but instead what team Alabama will beat for the national championship. You know, the team that earns second place.
But that’s the exact approach or line of thinking Saban warns against time and time again. He knows he has a special team, everyone can see that, but special teams sometimes stumble, and that, more than anything or any team, is the opponent he least wants to face — overconfidence or a lackadaisical attitude.
Already there is talk that this Alabama team is the greatest Alabama team ever, one of the greatest college football teams ever. And there’s still as many as six games left in the season. One can only imagine how such talk eats at a coach who takes great care and effort into living in the moment, approaching each opponent as it comes along.
Such lofty designations are fine once the season is complete, once a team has reached its goals. If Alabama goes undefeated and wins yet another national championship, then those comparisons, those “titles” can be considered.
While there remains talk by some analysts that Alabama’s schedule has made its dominance easier, there are few that can argue the talent, depth and strength of Alabama’s offense and defense against all opponents. Those units will be tested again in upcoming games. On paper, and if Saban can keep the overconfidence bugaboo from infecting his team, Alabama should pass those tests.
The one area that could be an issue for Alabama, should a game become a close call, is field goal kicking. That area of the game has not been all-world, along with the rest of the team. If there is an area where you can expect emphasis to be placed in these final weeks of the season by Saban it will be special teams.
If Alabama doesn’t stop itself, it seems a good bet, certainly right now, no one else will either.
Tommy Hicks, a Phenix City native, has covered sports in Alabama for more than 40 years. Contact him at