Alabama Coach Nick Saban knows that his Crimson Tide football team can’t rest on the laurels of a single victory, even though Bama’s 52-6 win over Southern Cal in Arlington, Texas, last week was among the most impressive wins in the first week of college football. It was good enough to strengthen Alabama’s hold on the top spots in both the Associated Press and Coaches polls after week one.
This week Alabama has its home opener, hosting Western Kentucky at 2:30 p.m. CDT Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
It is difficult to downplay Alabama’s season-opening victory or ignore the impression the Crimson Tide made on college football observers coast-to-coast. The attention, however, doesn’t sit well with Nick Saban.
The question he answered involved young players making contributions to the Bama effort and how upperclassmen might need to temper the situation. True freshman Jalen Hurts ignited the Tide offense as he passed for two touchdowns and rushed for two. True freshman Jonah Williams was Southeastern Conference Freshman Lineman of the Week as he got the start at right tackle.
"Well, we have a lot of other young guys that need to make a contribution for us to have the depth on this team that we need to sustain the season,” Saban said. “I think leadership on the team is very, very important to get young guys to understand how you need to prepare on a consistent basis and how you need to practice and develop the right habits. I think that's very important.
“Now, do you all make it any easier when you sort of make it like since we won one game that this is a big deal? Look, you are what you are based on what you perform in total and no team can be evaluated until they've played on a consistent basis for a 12-game season and showed that they have the resiliency, the ability to overcome adversity, the competitive spirit that you need to be able to sustain against some really, really good teams.”
No one would argue that one game does not a season make. Prior to the start of the season there was widespread belief among thoughtful college football analysts that Alabama’s schedule would make it too difficult for the Tide to repeat its 2015 national championship. In addition to the USC opener, Alabama has road games against some of its most difficult SEC opponents – Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee, and LSU.
Saban called the SEC “a pit bull environment.”
He said, “This is a pit bull league that we play in and we have to show that we can get in the league with pit bulls, which I'm not sure we've shown that yet. We need to keep working on that. That's the young guys, too. They don't understand that."
Not many were thinking of the SEC as a “pit bull” league following the first week of play. Sure, the SEC has dominated the college football scene for the past decade or so insofar as national championships, but the “what have you done lately?” analysis is that the SEC started first week play with a 7-7 record.
Let’s put SEC teams into first week categories:
Good Wins: Alabama over USC, Texas A&M beating UCLA (31-24), and Georgia under Kirby Smart downing North Carolina (33-24)
Just Wins: Florida 24-7 over UMass, Tennessee 20-13 over Appalachian State, Arkansas 21-20 over Louisiana Tech, South Carolina 13-10 over Vanderbilt
Good Losses: Auburn 13-19 to No. 2 Clemson, Ole Miss 34-45 to No. 3 Florida State
Bad Losses: Mississippi State 20-21 to South Alabama, LSU 14-16 to Wisconsin, Kentucky 35-44 to Southern Miss
Just Losses: Vandy to South Carolina, Missouri 11-26 to West Virginia
But it’s just one week, and too early to determine the real pit bulls.