Alabama Football Now Looks Ahead

First of all, congratulations to Auburn. Anyone who doesn't have an appreciation for that turnaround – not the same as being appreciative for it – doesn't understand football. Congratulations also to Florida State for beating a better team and winning the national championship.

Alabama followers only could think of what might have been. If the Crimson Tide had played just a normal game against Auburn, Bama probably would have been in Pasadena. But that's not what happened. Alabama played poorly, which was lucky for the Tigers.

(Now we're hearing that the reason A.J. McCarron isn't going to play in the Senior Bowl is that the all-time Alabama passing leader is going to have shoulder surgery. How much difference might a healthy McCarron have made?)

Many will suggest that Auburn was very lucky this year. Most will point to Georgia not knocking down a desperation pass and the Tigers winning that game, which would have knocked Auburn out of all championship contention.

And then there was the luck of championship season, playing Missouri – Missouri! – in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game and an ACC team in the national championship game.

Auburn fans have a luck that is somewhat perverted, too. I know that Alabama defeated Auburn in 1973, but I have absolutely no recollection of the game. What I remember and what almost every Bama fan I know remembers is the devastation of losing to Notre Dame in the de facto national championship game in the Sugar Bowl. I never heard any Tide fan say, "Well, that's okay. We beat Auburn."

I am not over that Notre Dame loss yet.

Auburn fans are lucky to be so centered on the Crimson Tide that that they will remember almost nothing of their team's excellent 2013 season except beating Alabama. Winning the state championship game trumps losing the national championship game, which is difficult for an Alabama fan to comprehend.

There will be some (mostly false) derision of Auburn for ending the SEC streak of eight BCS National Championships and for ending the streak of the crystal football coming to the state of Alabama for five consecutive years. Auburn doesn't care, and shouldn't.

The national championship trophy is the holy grail for Alabama football fans, not an "oh, well" thing.

One can't imagine Alabama winning a national championship and then two years later not winning a conference game, as happened at Auburn. Instead, one can imagine a dynasty of domination by Alabama football. That doesn't mean going undefeated every year, but it does mean having that mindset.

Coach Paul Bryant said that if his team won the national championship, the conference championship would probably take care of itset. The same goes for the state championship.

While some look back, the bet here is that Alabama Coach Nick Saban and his staff are looking forward and thinking big.

We have often noted that the national championship is the goal for Alabama fans, even when it is not realistic. But with Saban in charge, when is it not realistic?

And, again, congratulations Auburn.

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