TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban interrupted the breathless pontification about a weekend that jumbled the Southeastern Conference and national title races with a brief message.
See, I told you.
Saban took the losses of top-five teams Florida State University and SEC foes Georgia and LSU as support for his oft-repeated contention that pundits’ predictions aren’t worth much in college football.
“There’s a lot of parity in college football,” he told a gathering of reporters on Monday. “The teams that most of you in this room make head and shoulders above other teams, obviously shows you this last weekend how badly you can be mistaken. I know I can be mistaken and get criticized, but you guys are badly mistaken when you make teams that are like so much better than everybody else.
“This weekend kind of proved that your predictability is not very good. I think what it proved is the only thing predictable about college football is its unpredictability.”
Saban’s top-ranked Alabama team returned from an open date Monday to a very different landscape — except at the very top. Some poll voters and college football observers are say the Crimson Tide are “heads and shoulders above other teams.” Saban can turn the Saturday surprises into a message for his own Tide (5-0, 2-0) leading up to a visit to Missouri (3-3, 0-3).
The gist: It can happen to you, too, if you let it. Linebacker C.J. Mosley thinks the message was received even before Saban addressed the team ahead of Monday’s practice.
“We take it as a wakeup call to us that anyone can be beaten if we don’t bring our A Game and be ready for everybody every week,” Mosley said. “We could end up in the same boat.”
Some of Alabama’s veterans need only point to what happened at this point two years ago. That’s when a 5-0, defending national champion Tide team stumbled badly in a loss at South Carolina. That team lost two more games, too.
Tide safety Robert Lester said this group is different.
“There’s a lot more leadership,” Lester said. “And there’s a lot more guys that don’t want those feelings to come back as we had in 2010. Leaving South Carolina after a loss, it was horrible. I knew what it felt like and a lot more guys knew what it felt like. We don’t want our younger guys to go through that and we definitely don’t want to go through it again. So we’re doing as much as we can to keep that from happening again.”
Now, Alabama takes on a Missouri team that is without quarterback James Franklin, who sustained a sprained left knee in a loss to Vanderbilt.
The Tigers will try to do something the first five opponents couldn’t and at least put a scare in the Tide.
Alabama has lost two receivers and two running backs likely for the season with injuries. Saban said H-back Brent Calloway and backup quarterback Blake Sims both have worked at running back in the past and could be used at that position some if needed.
Alabama’s performances have been fairly pristine, except for the kind of issues that Saban can use as object lessons. Like scoring field goals instead of touchdowns in some of the frequent red zone trips.
Then again, Alabama, Oklahoma State and Buffalo are the only teams who have scored on every trip inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
The Tide, Air Force and Louisiana Tech are the only major college teams who haven’t thrown an interception.
Only three teams have committed fewer penalties. Plus, Alabama leads the nation in total and scoring defense.
No wonder Saban and elder statesmen like Lester mined the weekend off for reasons to be wary.
“We try to tell the young guys you don’t want things like that to happen in your season, to open your eyes while you’re trying to accomplish what you want to do,” Lester said. “Any time you lose a game like that, it sucks for the rest of the season.”
The Florida victory over LSU disrupted some of the anticipation for a Tide-Tigers rematch of the national title game on Nov. 3, but it still could decide the SEC West. Alabama doesn’t play either No. 3 South Carolina, No. 4 Florida or No. 14 Georgia in the regular season.
“I love competition,” Lester said. “I would love to play great teams like that. We still don’t know for sure if we might see one of them teams for the SEC championship if we make it.”