CECIL HURT: Alabama football delivered a lesson, but school isn’t out yet
The thirst for revenge is a hard one to quench. Going into last Saturday night’s game in Baton Rouge, many Alabama fans were hoping not just to avenge a 2019 loss to the LSU. That included not just wining but also doling out humiliation to the Tigers for their postgame display in Tuscaloosa, slightly missing the point that with the boorish antics LSU had already embarrassed itself.
In the end, neither of the two outcomes was unexpected. On the field, Alabama beat the Tigers 55-17, more or less the same sort of victory that Alabama has been rolling up against sub-par teams, with a good portion of the second half devoted to letting backups get useful experience. The postgame was also routine, with the Alabama team acting like it had won a football game and had business remaining instead of behaving like it had just wandered out of Bayou Orgeron and seen an electric light bulb for the first time.
It was a teaching moment. Alabama delivered the lesson and now moves on.
The Southeastern Conference has decreed that games will be played on Dec. 12, assuming this week’s coronavirus testing goes well. There isn’t a great deal for Alabama to gain by jetting up to the Ozarks for a game. The risks might not be astronomical, but they exist (injury, exposure to coronavirus in a road environment, a history-making upset by Arkansas) to some degree. Perhaps that is true of any game and you play the opponent on your schedule.
The SEC seems determined to complete all 70 games from the modified schedule, almost as a point of honor. Whether you think that there is an added motivation to distance itself from the make-up-the-rules-as-you-go attitude of other leagues is up to you.
Alabama is unique this season, not that it is impervious to the virus, Nick Saban missed the Auburn game, after all. But the Crimson Tide seems built for chaos, the foundations of the Saban process so strong that they would shake less violently, even in an earthquake.
Arkansas has been a different sort of success story. The 3-6 record might not be good enough to propel first-year head coach Sam Pittman to SEC Coach of the Year (as usual, having the No. 1 team in the country probably won’t be good enough for Saban to qualify, either). A break here or there might have the Razorbacks at 6-3, and despite low roster numbers and an injury to quarterback Feleipe Franks they gave a good offensive account of themselves in a 50-48 loss at Missouri last Saturday. The defense did give up 653 yards, though, which sounds problematic with Alabama coming to town.
Could Alabama be looking ahead to Florida? That’s always possible, although Saban’s teams are usually focused. In a postgame interview in Baton Rouge, Jamie Erdahl, who did a fine job of handling play-by-play from the sidelines when the CBS booth had a temporary technical glitch, asked Saban about the SEC title game. He responded gently that, “I think we’ve got a game next week.”
That might not be the answer from other coaches, but Saban wants no disruptions in the norm at this point.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt