How Bama Reacts Will Define Team

Alabama football has won so much, both historically and recently, that a Crimson Tide loss is big news. Not as much news as if the sun didn't come up the next day, and that is frequently the gist of a post-Bama loss story. For the record, yes, the sun did come up in Tuscaloosa Sunday morning.

For Alabama football, though, the illumination from the sun is not the issue. It is the exposure of a Bama team that just a few days ago had been viewed as invincible. Today the Crimson Tide is awash in doubt, the victim of what is considered the greatest victory in South Carolina football history. Alabama went to Columbia as the number one team in the nation and returned home viewed as no better than the third best team in the Southeastern Conference Western Division.

Prior to the game, Alabama Coach Nick Saban proclaimed that the game would define this year's Crimson Tide. Last week that was a reasonable point. This week, facing the rare prospect of having to rebound, that definition can be put on hold. As devastating as the 35-21 loss to South Carolina seems, it is not the end of Alabama football. It is not even the end of this season.

What will really define the 2010 Alabama football team is how it reacts to the loss.

There are a number of players on the team who had never experienced a college football loss. Crimson Tide quarterback Greg McElroy had been a part of losing Bama teams in his first three years in Tuscaloosa, but had never lost as a starter.

What is gone is well documented: the 19-game winning streak, 18-game SEC winning streak, 29-game regular season winning streak, and five-game 2010 winning streak. But there are many teams that have rebounded from a loss to have a good season, even a championship season.

Trite as it may sound, Alabama's destiny is in its hands. The question is whether the Crimson Tide can meet the challenge.

As long as we're delving into cliches, consider the "wake-up call." Maybe Alabama did need the shock of loss to right the ship, though most who have been involved in sports don't see anything good coming from a loss. To most, though, (and maybe not Saban), the Crimson Tide that took the field in Columbia appeared to be almost lethargic.

Many Alabama opponents play with a lack of confidence, but South Carolina was not in that boat. The Gamecocks weren't awed by the Crimson helmets and Bama reputation. A week earlier, most thought Bama had managed the biggest hurdle of the season with its romp over Florida. As shown a few hours following the Bama loss, the Gators, too, are something less than the power of the past.

It's the nature of college football that every team undergoes some rebuilding. Alabama's primary problem appears to be that it has not been able to replicate defensive stars like Rolando McClain and Terrence Cody.

Legendary Alabama Coach Paul Bryant was wont to moan that future opponents "are licking their chops" to play the Crimson Tide. That may be the case, but it doesn't mean that Bama needs to be easy pickings.

It will take work, but Alabama can get the job done.

In that case, it won't be the loss to South Carolina that defines 2010 Alabama. It will be how Alabama responds to that loss, beginning this week.

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