When I think about the teams Bama has fielded in the last three years, I can’t help but think that the most talented team is the one that lost three games. The 2010 version of the Crimson Tide featured eight future first-rounders including four top ten picks and that is not including a first round talent in Courtney Upshaw. The team was plagued by over-satisfaction and large dollar signs clouded their vision starting in the pre-season (see Marcel Darius). Bama had climbed the hill in ’09, were the unanimous number one team, and had a roster full of players that would run out of the tunnel on Sundays. It seemed that nothing was going to stop the Tide from rolling over all comers on their way to another BCS National Championship.
Life was good in the Heart of Dixie.
I felt like something was not right from the beginning of the year. There were factors that the media, fans, and even players seemed to be over looking like the fact the defensive secondary was completely revamped from the ’09 season. This meant the offense was going to have to raise its level of play to cover for the inexperienced defense. Also the attention and paper trophies were pouring in which is never good for a group of young men that were already considered heroes in the state of Alabama. I could see the eventual collapse coming at the beginning of the season, but then I was teased by the comeback in Fayetteville and the greatness of Coach Saban. I would not have been so crushed by Bama’s collapses in the LSU and Cow School games if they hadn’t pulled their jockstraps up and beat a good Arkansas team that seemed to on their way to an unstoppable aerial bombardment of the young Alabama secondary. Mark Ingram looked great and seemed to have his legs back while driving Bama down the field. Bama’s offense seemed poised for a breakout year, which was going to give the defense time to get their legs. It looked like the Tide were a better, more talented version of the ’09 team, it was going to be our year again, but then it wasn’t. It was not the South Carolina game that did us in, it was the Florida game.
If I had to blame one game for Alabama’s “hubris of dominance” in 2010 it is the monkey stomping put on the Gators in Byrant-Denny. What we (and the rest of the country) had not realized yet was that this was not the Florida team of the last four years. The Tebow-less Gators were a dramatically over-rated number 6 coming into the game and the hype was bubbling over. The lights were on in Tuscaloosa and the game seemed to hold the fate of the SEC race in its hands. ABC’s open credits had Jay-Z’s “Who gonna run this town tonight” over Alabama-Florida highlights of the two previous years SEC Championship games which featured the two Heisman winners flashing on the screen looking like an over-did music video. As C.J. Mosley, then a true freshman, was running toward the end zone with the dagger twisting pick-six Bama fans every where were making round trip tickets to Arizona. After all, we had just dominated the team that we had held in such high revere for the last two years. The ’09 team had spent the whole year getting ready for the SEC Championship battle and Bama ’10 had just vanquished them as if they were playing a directional state school. The College Football world seemed to again on its knees to the greatness of Dixieland football. 2010 was just going to be a continuation of 2009 and we were going to win the championship for the fourteenth time.
The subsequent losses reflected the underlying problems of the team. Their inexperience in the South Carolina game cost them that one, but a road loss early in the SEC season was by no means a death blow to the BCS title hopes. Then, relying solely on their perceived superior talent, Bama blew winnable games in Baton Rouge and the Iron Bowl. In both games it seemed we were poised to not only win, but completely take the game over only to let good teams stick around and snatch a pair of victories. I agree that both versions of the SEC West’s Tigers had good teams, but they didn’t have the freakish talent of the Tide. The defense alone was starting five future NFL starters not to mention Dee Milner, CJ Mosley, Nico, and Lester who should join the former teammates on an NFL roster. The offense had four future first round picks and three other, at least, future NFL players. The problem was not a lack of talent, but talent that was either burned out my the Saban whip or the grind that the two previous years championship runs (’08 Bama went deep but fell short). To this day, I believe that the ’10 Bama team was one TE toss-sweep stop away from going to the National Championship in back to back years. I hate playing the what-if-game, but Saban would not have allowed Auburn to win that year if a trip to Arizona was on the line. The Sugar Bowl is a good consolation prize, but that is exactly what it is to Bama fans; a consolation prize.
The lost championship of 1966 was due to the prevailing racial tensions in America. Stabler and his teammates would have won that championship if it were not for the political statement made by the sportswriters and college football fans that Alabama could do nothing on the field to win it all (How else does the reigning Champ go undefeated and not win again?). The 2010 campaign was not derailed by social unrest, but by the “hubris of dominance” that was established in ’09 with their last-second wins and dismantling of undefeated teams. There was no better team in the land in 2010 than the boys in Crimson and White, which the complete dismantling of a #9 ranked Michigan State showed why Bama was ranked #1 in July. Whether they were knocking out MSU’s top two quarterbacks or getting yelled at by Saban for take a dive play 50 plus yards up the gut to tack on yet another touchdown, Bama showed that they were everything we had hoped they would be. Unfortunately, crystal balls aren’t handed out to the most talented team (Free Shoes U might have about twenty if they did). Here is to hoping that our Crimson Tide has learned from it.