Before the current reign of Nick Saban at the University of Alabama, the Crimson Tide football program suffered through years of uncertainty at the head coaching position and average football from year to year — with the occasional double-digit win season peppered in between.
It was a period few Alabama fans today seem to recall, but there are plenty who sat through the Dubose years, or Mike Price’s … abrupt stint … and let’s not forget Mike Shula’s presence on the sideline (Hey, he had a good run in 2005). Though this is true for most fan bases, it is prudent to take a step back from time to time and realize exactly how good you’ve got it.
You rarely feel that Alabama is out of a game with Nick Saban in command. Total confidence brims from every Alabama fan every time they take the field. It’s just a matter of fact. It’s not cocky. It’s just a fact. Defeat is unusual. It stings for a few days, or weeks even.
Alabama faces Notre Dame in the upcoming BCS National Championship in January, and I’ve heard a great deal of chatter from both Alabama fans and SEC fans alike, boasting that Notre Dame doesn’t have a chance (some even mention that Notre Dame wouldn’t have a chance against Georgia). “The National Championship was played in Atlanta” they say. Or “Notre Dame has a mediocre offense”. Some of the more irrational comments I’ve heard claim that Notre Dame doesn’t even deserve to be in the championship game. (edit: In hindsight, this was overwhelmingly true.)
Let’s go back to a game that is nearing its 20-year anniversary. It’s a game that Alabama fans should remember well. I was there, but I was also 7 at the time — all I remember is sitting behind the tubas and watching George Teague limp off the field after chasing down Lamar Thomas.
The game I am talking about is the 1993 USF&G Sugar Bowl that featured the mighty Miami Hurricanes and their disrespected adversary, the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The Miami Hurricanes entered the game with a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in Gino Torretta, a 29-game winning streak, two national titles in three years, and a decade of dominance in their midst. The Hurricanes were an unstoppable machine and no one outside of Alabama (and a few others I’m sure), gave Alabama a prayer of a chance to stand up to Miami. Lamar Thomas, a speedy playmaker who is more renowned for his mouth than anything, displayed his two national championship rings during a press conference and said “the third will be icing on the cake.” You won’t find Alabama’s players quite so outspoken, but you can find plenty of fans. Let Lamar Thomas’ embarrassment serve as a humble reminder.
Alabama is, in a sense, a present day Miami. There are stark differences — no Heisman-winning quarterback or outspoken attitudes — but as far as mystique and dominance, Alabama and Miami share a common denominator. The Crimson Tide are playing for their third national title in four years, a feat that would be unprecedented in the current BCS era, which was also something Miami was working on (I think it was three in five years for them).
This isn’t the only manner in which the 2012-13 BCS Championship shares a similarity. Notre Dame’s average offense boasts a top 30 running game — something that the 1992-93 Alabama offense can relate to. Notre Dame also plays strong defense — another similarity. The Fighting Irish will bring plenty of tenacity, led by their captain at linebacker, Manti Te’o. And if you think Notre Dame’s quarterback is a weak spot, consider that Jay Barker completed four of 13 passes for 18 yards in the Tide’s 34-13 rout of Miami. Perhaps Notre Dame thinks they can run on Alabama?
I seriously doubt Alabama’s squad will be as cocky as to overlook Notre Dame (like Miami did with Alabama), but you can be sure that Notre Dame will feed off of their underdog role — though that is something Gene Stallings refused to admit about his team. They’re undefeated and still not considered as a favorite in the championship game. Talk about disrespect. That’s all the classic Alabama squad from the 1992-93 season heard in wake of their showdown with the dynasty of that era.
How fitting for Alabama to return to the now-tarnished shrine of The U. I am not predicting a sharp decline,rotting of a dynasty, or even a loss — but I am offering a gentle reminder to the Alabama nation to remain humble and remind yourselves that you, too, were in this position not long ago. Notre Dame probably doesn’t equal Alabama in terms of talent, but you don’t have to be the most talented team to win. All you have to be is the best team on the field for 60 minutes when the lights come on.
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment box below. You can e-mail me suggestions or questions at email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter @JoeSportswriter.