The Tipping Point

I'm pretty much like every other college football fan in America in at least one sense - I don't know what in heaven or earth a signature win is. I don't know what it looks like, feels like, smells like or how one might define it.

Can a coach have more than one in a lifetime? Can a team have more than one in a year? How many did Paul "Bear" Bryant have? What was Auburn's signature win last year? What was USC's signature win last year?

Maybe it's like the U.S. Supreme Court's definition of obscenity: "You know it when you see it."

Or maybe the "signature win" phenomenon was a keen media ploy to give Sylvester Croom some perceived coaching superiority over Mike Shula after the Mississippi State beat Florida last year in an attempt to re-insert some tension between the two forever circumstantially-linked coaches?

Ding! Ding! Ding! We might have a winner here!

I'm not an autograph collector, so the only signature I concern myself with is the one that appears on my pay check.

The thing is, I'm not sure I care what a signature win is.

That's because I do think I have a pretty decent idea of what a good college football team looks like. I have seen a few in the past up close and from a distance. And I'm sure those can be defined with a more scientific type of analysis.

I don't know if I saw any signatures in Columbia, S.C. Saturday night, but I did see a good football team, and they were wearing crimson.

(Bama wore crimson jerseys on the road because South Carolina wanted the heat-repellent white jerseys, and they stuck Alabama with the heat-absorbent palette.

Alabama stood on the sunny side of the field, too. Perhaps there was five degrees' difference in temperature separating Gamecocks were five degrees cooler than Alabama. If so, Alabama had at least six degrees of separation in their planning, adjustments and execution.)

I saw an offensive game plan that made the opposition greatest strength a weakness. noted at the top of its defensive scouting report last week that, "if South Carolina has done one thing well on defense in its first two games, it has been getting after the quarterback. The Gamecocks are second only to the Crimson Tide in sacks through two games with seven sacks."

The Gamecocks got their only sack Saturday from nose tackle Stanley Doughty, who snared Croyle two yards behind the line of scrimmage as he tried to escape for positive yardage.

The South Carolina defensive ends started out with a focus on getting up the field quickly in order to get to Croyle on the five- and seven-step drop passing plays. They had to re-think that strategy after one of the watched Tyrone Prothro scamper off-tackle from the halfback position right past the end who was already too far up field to make the play.

Another Gamecock defensive end was left scratching his head when Croyle looped around him and broke containment on a called naked bootleg play – something Alabama hasn't shown much if any of in the past two years.

I saw a defense that was slapped across the face in South Carolina's opening series do what was needed to make sure that was all the Gamecocks were getting for a while. They forced quarterback Blake Mitchell into high-risk decisions and then made him pay when the execution wasn't there. I saw reserve players coming in early and often who look more and more like they could start for a lot of other teams around the country, and a total of 22 different players who made at least one tackle.

There were special teams that kicked three field goals and didn't do anything that might cost a team a close game.

There are areas for improvement in all three phases, that's obvious. But clearly all three phases of Alabama's football team had performances that would chart an overall "winning grade".

That doesn't necessarily mean we'll see that same good team for the next nine weeks; plus SEC championship game, plus bowl game. "Good" and "team" certainly weren't the first that came to mind after weeks one and two.

After those games I was thinking more along the lines of "confusing" or "bi-polar".

In a best-case scenario, however, what I saw Saturday was extremely significant.

There's a book entitled The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

I haven't read it and I don't know the ideology it espouses. I just like the title's implications.

Alabama's win Saturday had all the signs of a tipping point, a singular moment where a team goes from question marks to exclamation points.

The Tide's small step toward championship caliber on Saturday gave the same impression as a lone child moving a step away from the balanced center of a see-saw, slanting the board firmly in one direction.

A tipping point where other teams go from fearing an Alabama upset at Alabama's hands to fearing a pounding by the Crimson Tide.

A tipping point where potential becomes potency.

A tipping point where a victory over South Carolina isn't considered a huge win, but one of those little things that can make a big difference.

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