If you’re looking for a “sure thing,” Alabama’s football team would appear to be it. Everyone from American sports fans to the media to all those title-crazed Tide backers in the Heart of Dixie is tabbing Bama as the heavy odds-on favorite to win both the Southeastern Conference and another BCS championship. Another crown in 2013 would be the school’s third in a row and fourth in five years.
How big is the hype on the eve of the 2013 season? Virginia Tech — Alabama’s opponent in Saturday’s opener — is considered to be a 20-point underdog (give or take a point) by most bookmakers. The Hokies haven’t been that big of a dog since 1992. (As we’ve pointed out, oh, so many times, the line show is designed to bring in an even amount of cash on both sides of a bet. The huge line tells you that the Vegas bookies expect a lot of action on Alabama.)
Meanwhile, columnist Don Kausler — who’s departing Al.com — states that this year’s Tide team will boast “the greatest collection of offensive skill players in school history.” That’s a heckuva statement considering the fact that Alabama’s collection of national titles already numbers in the teens. UA has had some pretty good skill players in the past.
Short answer to that last question? Yes, of course.
In 2011, Alabama scored just six points in a 9-6 home loss to LSU. Nick Saban’s squad caught a break when Oklahoma State lost was upset late in the season to open the door for a title game rematch with Les Miles’ bunch, a rematch won easily by the Tide.
In 2012, UA pulled out a 21-17 road win in Baton Rouge on a 28-yard touchdown pass with just 51 seconds left to play. The next week, Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M handed Alabama a 29-24 home loss. Once again, Saban’s squad needed teams ahead of it to lose. Once again that happened. But before reaching the BCS title game, Alabama had to get past Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, which served as a de facto national semifinal. Bama prevailed 32-28, but UGA was less than 10 yards away from paydirt as time expired.
The message should be clear: While Alabama has been dominant overall, they’ve still been beatable on a game to game basis. That’s not to undercut what Saban and Alabama have accomplished. When given breaks, they’ve taken advantage… which is exactly what championship teams do.
But Alabama hasn’t been an unbeatable. The Crimson Tide machine might seem indestructible, but LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia have all pushed Saban’s team to the limit or beyond over the last two seasons. So can someone do the same this year? Certainly. Alabama has experienced some turnover on defense and on its offensive line. And the ball can take funny bounces.
Hey, there’s a reason fans, media and sports bettors are backing Alabama — they’re damn good with a damn good coach. But it’s still a bit too early to be handing over another SEC title trophy and BCS crystal football.