HEYYY, it’s Alabama week. Normally this is known as “the last week we enjoy being ranked and powerful and relevant before coming crashing down to earth in a pile of wreckage” but this year that already happened out in LA the first Sunday of the season. This year we decided to tick that box off early, get off-schedule, and get weird.
Now we’re here. Just shy of the midway point in the year, with even less of an idea of what to expect from this team in any given quarter than before we started. The football this year has been bad, then inspiring, then bad again, then absolutely exhilarating. And that’s just each individual game. The one certainty is that whatever we do, we do it at a frenetic pace that has been entertaining as hell. And as long as we’re managing to eke out those SEC wins, it’s great.
Again, it’s Alabama week. But this year, reality has already settled in weeks ago. We’re looking for any kind of meaning here; any glimmer of hope. So what in the hell do we make of this?
Nick Saban says Texas A&M, not Florida State, is 'by far' Alabama's toughest foe so far https://t.co/pHpqFGLz8m— Rainer Sabin (@RainerSabin) October 2, 2017
Yes, this is most likely largely lip service. Planned coachspeak intended to keep his team focused, while minimizing the methodical dominance with which Alabama has plowed through the first five games.
But is there something else? Nick Saban himself is methodical, but he’s also astute. Perhaps he sees something different in this team that he knows the past few Aggie squads have lacked. Maybe he’s seen the way they’ve drawn from that UCLA fiasco and pulled together to rally with each other to overcome deficits for three weeks in a row. Perhaps he knows that it’s not as easy as we want it to be for a true freshman QB to be able to lead a team to comebacks over two straight SEC opponents as the defense manages to disrupt opposing quarterbacks with reckless abandon.
Nick Saban is not saying that Texas A&M is good. At least, not good in a Saban sense of the word. But with Kevin Sumlin, now the third-longest tenured coach in the SEC, having his guys show enough give-a-damn to actually complete the games when they get down early, it is possible that Saban does believe this team has a certain toughness. Maybe not toughness in the traditional, hardnosed Alabama sense of the word, but a relative mental toughness he hasn’t seen from Sumlin’s teams in recent years.
Of course, maybe it is all just platitudes and canned presserspeak. Maybe we’re grasping at the straws we want to grasp. But when Saban speaks, it’s usually wise to listen. And this time I think there is a tiny grain of truth in what he’s saying. We’ll find out Saturday.