All week long, when pundits discussed the chances of Texas A&M upsetting Alabama, they invariably pointed to the emotional toll the Tide’s win over LSU last weekend as something that could swing the game in the Aggies’ favor.
In the aftermath of A&M’s stunning upset of the No. 1 team in the country, and at least to some extent, the Tide’s head coach agreed.
The past four weekends, the Tide has faced three teams that were, at the time, ranked inside the Top 15 as well as its annual cross-division rival in Tennessee. When asked specifically about the Tigers game taking too much out of the team, Saban uncharacteristically leaned on the emotional crutch graciously provided to him by the reporter.
“I think the players refocused and really tried and it seemed like early in the week we were pretty good, but later in the week, emotionally, I’m not really talking about physically, we just couldn’t seem to get the kind of mental energy and intensity that we needed to play against this kind of team,” the coach said in quotes distributed by the team. “We have had a pretty tough stretch here, and that’s no excuse but, Mississippi State, LSU, and this game – playing at Tennessee, which is a big game for us emotionally.”
To Saban’s credit, it wasn’t even remotely all about what his Tide didn’t have or what may have been lacking in their emotional reserves. As everyone saw, and whether they’re new to the SEC or not, A&M is one hell of a football team as Saban readily acknowledged.
“[Y]ou have to really congratulate Texas A&M. They played a tremendous game and certainly outplayed us in the game today,” Saban said. “We knew that this was going to be a difficult game and that they had a really good team. They had lost to two top-10 teams by three and five points and they are a better team now that they were then, because the quarterback is playing better every week.
“We were going to need to play our best game today and we didn’t do it and that’s my responsibility.”
The good news for Saban and the Tide is that this is far from a lost season. The SEC West title is still well within their reach, as is a spot in the BcS title game if certain dominoes fall their way.
Even better? Of the 23 current starters — 12 listed on the offense — 16 of them are underclassmen and, barring early leaps for the NFL, would return in 2013. On the two-deep depth chart, 36 of the 46 players are non-seniors.
So, yeah, the Tide will be loaded with talent again in 2013 — talent with the benefit of an additional year’s worth of experience, it should be noted.