No one was particularly happy with Alabama’s performance in the second week of the 2016 season, with none more dissatisfied than Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban.
Alabama came into the game ranked first in the nation by a wide margin, and almost certainly will maintain that rank this week in the Associated Press and Coaches polls. (Yes, we understand they don’t mean anything, but it’s all we have until the College Football Playoff Selection Committee begins work in late October.)
Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium – a week after the Tide had dismantled Southern Cal – Alabama more or less sleep-walked through a 38-10 win over Western Kentucky.
Is this any way to win a national championship?
Looking back at the first and second week of games in Alabama’s four previous national championship seasons under Saban:
In 2009, Bama opened the season with a high-profile win, the Tide ranked fifth downing a Virginia Tech team ranked seventh by 34-24. The next week, it was Alabama 40, Florida International 14, a slightly smaller margin of victory than Saturday’s win over Western Kentucky.
The 2009 team went on to a 14-0 record, defeating No. 1 Florida in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game, 32-13, and No. 2 Texas in the National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl, 37-21.
In 2011, Bama did not open the season with a high-profile opponent The Tide defeated Kent State, 48-7, and then went to Penn State the second week, where No. 3 Alabama defeated No. 23 Penn State, 27-11.
The 2011 team went on to a 12-1 record, losing an overtime game to LSU, 6-9. But Alabama got a rematch with LSU in the National Championship Game in the Sugar Bowl and won the title with a 21-0 win.
In 2012, Alabama had what Saban would probably have wanted. First, in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, the second-ranked Tide steamrolled No. 8 Michigan, 41-14. The second week in Tuscaloosa it was Western Kentucky, and the result was a more satisfying 35-0 win.
The 2012 team went 13-1 (a 29-24 loss to Texas A&M the blot) with No. 2 Alabama downing No. 3 Georgia, 32-28, in the SEC Championship Game before trouncing No. 1 Notre Dame, 42-14, in the National Championship Game at the Orange Bowl.
Last year the Tide opened in Arlington with a 35-17 win over Wisconsin and followed that up in Tuscaloosa with a 37-10 win over Middle Tennessee – one point under Saturday’s margin against WKU.
The 2015 Alabama team was ranked second in the nation when it defeated Florida in the SEC Championship Game by 29-15, downed No. 3 Michigan State by 38-0 in the Cotton Bowl Semifinal Game of the College Football Playoff, and finished off in Glendale, Arizona, in the national championship game with a 45-40 win over Clemson.
What does it mean? Insofar as how this season might go, probably nothing. It is far too early to be predicting a final result, particularly when Alabama must show solid improvement this week when the Tide goes to Oxford to take on Ole Miss. Kickoff Saturday will be at 2:30 p.m. CDT with television coverage by CBS.
Last year’s 37-43 loss to Mississippi came in the third game of the season. In the other third games of national title seasons, Alabama defeated North Texas, 53-7, in 2009; defeated North Texas again, 41-0, in 2011; and defeated Arkansas, 52-0, in 2012.