There were several unanswered questions after Alabama’s lackluster performance in Baton Rouge a week ago.
*When LSU dominated the match-up in Tiger Stadium, was that just a fluke game for the Tide?
*Would Alabama’s real defense, the one supposedly better than a year ago, show up after the wake-up call in Death Valley?
*After that final drive against LSU, would quarterback AJ McCarron become the SEC’s realistic Heisman Trophy candidate?
*And, would Bama still prove itself to be the most legitimate contender for the national championship?
Those answers were loud and clear in Bryant-Denny Stadium against Texas A&M in the 29-24 loss on Saturday night.
No, no, no … and no.
For the second consecutive game, Alabama was outplayed from start to finish, but this time the team on the other side of the field didn’t have a coach who succeeded in giving the game away.
This time the other team had the best freshman quarterback to play college football in a long, long time and he succeeded in taking the game away.
Texas A&M provided a dose of reality to Alabama, scoring three times early before the Tide could find the end zone. Bama was the third consecutive SEC opponent to fall behind the Aggies by at least 20-0.
In the past two games, Alabama’s defense has given up 853 yards in total offense, and allowed LSU and Texas A&M to convert a combined 21 third down attempts. The Tigers and Aggies have completed 73 percent of their passes for 549 yards and have averaged 36 minutes in time of possession, 12 minutes per game more than Alabama.
Based on how Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia have played in their last two games, the Tide may be the third best team in their own division, and could go into the SEC Championship Game against Georgia as the underdog. If the Aggies had played Florida and LSU in November rather than early in the season, A&M would likely be headed to Atlanta, if not to Miami for the BCS Championship Game.
But when thinking about that national championship matchup, don’t be too quick to write off Alabama, or Georgia for that matter. In order for the winner of the Georgia Dome battle to play in Miami, several things need to happen:
*Kansas State would have to lose at Baylor or in the season-ender at home to Texas. The Bears have the nation’s total offense leader … the only quarterback ahead of Johnny “Football” Manziel on that list … and the Longhorns are nationally-ranked and improving.
*Notre Dame would have to lose to Southern Cal.
*Oregon would have to lose to nationally-ranked Stanford at home, at in-state rival Oregon State or in the Pac-12 Championship Game (probably against UCLA).
*Alabama and Georgia would have to avoid an unexpected upset in the final two weeks.
That last one is almost certain. The Dawgs probably aren’t going to lose in Athens against in-state rivals Georgia Southern or Georgia Tech. And, Bama’s last two home opponents – Western Carolina and Auburn – probably won’t even score. There may not be enough lights on the scoreboard to accommodate the home team’s numbers.
But, those other things aren’t that outlandish.
Remember that Alabama only played in the BCS Championship Game last season by backing into it after Oklahoma State was upset at Iowa State. Despite Alabama being exposed the past two weeks, and despite the massacre that Georgia suffered at South Carolina in early October, either team could still play for the SEC’s seventh consecutive national championship.
At this point, it wouldn’t be deserved. It will be tough to continue making the annual argument that a one-loss Southeastern Conference team should always be given the benefit of the doubt, especially if there are three or more other one-loss teams. And, for this to even be considered, it would take a lot more help than the Tide got last year. But stranger things have happened.
If you follow the Crimson Tide or the Bulldogs, don’t give up those hotel reservations and airline tickets to south Florida just yet.