Bad Ending, But Still A Great Year

The human mind reportedly has among its attributes the facility allowing us to forget the most painful aspects of terrible experiences. Oh! I think it's working! Thank you, brain! "Hey, Auburn! We just beat the hell out of you!"

Well, maybe it doesn't work that quickly. The image of Alabama's destruction in the Sugar Bowl at the hands of Utah is still in crisp focus. The Utes put what New Orleans singing legend Dr. John would call "a hurtin'" on Bama.

And it made it a two-game losing streak for the 2008 Crimson Tide that spent much of the year ranked number one in the nation. True, the only poll that counts is the last one, but for Bama to be considered the nation's best in the second season after Nick Saban took over is an extraordinary accomplishment.

Alabama ends up with a 12-2 record, which isn't bad. There are no championships (unless you count the Southeastern Conference Western Division), but Bama was close. And in August no one had any idea the team that had been 7-6 in 2007 and 6-7 in 2006 would go undefeated in 12 regular season games.

Alabama's two losses come at a bad time, the end of the season, but they came at the hands of top ten teams, Utah in the Sugar Bowl Friday night and Florida in the SEC Championship Game a month earlier.

The good news is that most of the players responsible for that success return. Additionally, Saban and his staff are having another great recruiting year, one that will approach last year's best in the nation class.

Saban and the players said that players last year bought into his process after a win over Colorado in the Independence Bowl. The loss to Utah may serve the same purpose when the Tide begins off-season work in January. Players now have the experience of the success that resulted from last year's work, and also the lesson that work remains to be done.

Don't look for Saban to rest on his national coach of the year laurels. He'll recruit, he'll replace assistants on his staff if necessary, and he'll teach.

It is the nature of college football that some rebuilding is almost always a part of the season, and Alabama will have some. Most important will be replacing men up the middle—center Antoine Caldwell and quarterback John Parker Wilson on offense, safety Rashad Johnson on defense. There are some others of note, including tight ends Nick Walker and Travis McCall, wide receivers Nikita Stover and Will Oakley, guard Marlon Davis, and defensive end Bobby Greenwood.

And probably All-America offensive tackle Andre Smith.

It's a long, long time until Alabama opens the 2009 season. In the meantime, we'll have the fond memory of the end of the 2008 season, 36-0.

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