Playing and winning early allowed Alabama to watch top teams go down

Alabama Coach Nick Saban prefers controlling destiny

Last weekend’s upsets of some of the nation’s top-ranked teams are still the talk of college football. Among the College Football Playoff selection committee’s top four teams, Alabama with its 51-3 win over Mississippi State was the only winner.

Michigan fell to Iowa, Clemson was upset by Pittsburgh, and Washington fell to Southern Cal.

In the Southeastern Conference, Auburn’s loss at Georgia clinched the Western Division title for Alabama.

Alabama played the early (11 a.m. CST) game Saturday, so Crimson Tide players were able to watch all or part of the other key games.

Bama Coach Nick Saban shared thoughts on the upsets in a general way. He said, “The message is when you win, you control your own destiny. When you don't, you allow someone else to determine what your fate's going to be.

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“We have all these teams that lost one game now. Somebody has to decide who gets to do what. If you put yourself in that situation, you let somebody else decide what your fate is. If you take care of your business and do things the way you need to do it, then maybe you can control your own destiny in the way you play.

“That's certainly much more the way we would like for it to be from our perspective. We've got lots of tough games we have to play between now and then. We want to take it one game at a time and focus on improving.”

Alabama’s next game doesn’t project as one of those tough ones. The Crimson Tide will host Tennessee-Chattanooga at 6 p.m. CST in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday. ESPN2 will televise the game.

Bama is a unanimous No. 1 in all polls and will be No. 1 in Tuesday night’s CFP ranking. Alabama is 10-0 and Chattanooga is a strong team in the Southern Conference, co-champion last year and ranked seventh in the FCS prior to last weekend’s 36-28 loss to Wofford. The Mocs are 8-2 on the season.

Alabama cornerback Anthony Averett was among those who watched the Saturday upsets. “I was very shocked,” he said. “Who went down – Michigan, Clemson, and Washington? Yeah, I watched all of them. I was shocked. It’s just football.”

He also watched Georgia upset Auburn, with former Alabama safety Maurice Smith turning in a key play, an interception and runback for touchdown in the Bulldogs’ 13-7 win.

“I was happy for him,” Averett said of his former teammate’s big play. “He was my roommate before he transferred, so we were real close. So I was happy.”

Linebacker Shawn Dion Hamilton said that he watches games to learn. “I like watching other defenses and seeing how a defense may be related to ours.”

He watched games with his family Saturday.

“I was glad we played early,” he said. “Got a chance to sit back and relax and just enjoy a good Saturday of college football. It just shows that any Saturday any team can get beat. Coach Saban always preaches other teams have good players just like we do. Every Saturday's you've got to come out and execute.”

He didn’t have a choice of the biggest upset. He said, “All of them were. I was like, ‘Wow. For real?’ It is what it is.

“Just like Coach Saban says, if you don't execute the game plan you're going to get beat. It's a learning experience for the college football teams out there.”

Hamilton, too, is friends with Maurice Smith. He said he and his family “were going crazy” watching.

“I love seeing guys succeed. I texted him after the game, told him I was happy for him.”

Hamilton said he didn’t think about the Auburn loss clinching the SEC West for Alabama. “It’s not going to affect us,” he said. “Every Saturday we try to come out and play ball.”

Bama wide receiver ArDarius Stewart, who had a busy day with 8 receptions for 156 yards and 3 touchdowns against Mississippi State, said after the game “I took a nap and woke up a little late to see all the other games, but I heard there were a lot of upsets.

“It was “It was crazy, because now stuff is going to be out of whack, people thought it was just going to be like that for the rest of the season, and it threw the charts off a lot.

“You know anything can happen. If a team comes out and plays their game right, you never know what could happen.”

Center Bradley Bozeman said the upsets are “kind of an eye-opener. It just reminds you that you have to bring your best every game. You can’t take a week for granted.”

Asked if it was better to learn from the mistakes of other teams than from one’s own team, he said, “Yeah. For sure.”

Nose tackle DaRon Payne said he saw only the end of Clemson’s loss.

“Coach Saban tells us to never sleep on an opponent,” Payne said. “Just stay focused every week and bring it.”


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