Alabama Showed It Was Battle-Tested, Not Battle-Worn
"This Alabama team doesn't look like past Alabama teams."
"This offense isn't explosive enough."
"The offensive line can't get the job done."
"The defense is too inconsistent."
Any of those sound familiar? It's been the story all season: The 2021 Alabama Crimson Tide just might not be good enough.
Leading into the loss in College Station to the unranked Texas A&M Aggies, the feeling among much of the fanbase and in media circles was that it was only a matter of time for the empire to fall.
There was too much turnover from 2020's "Ultimate Team."
Alabama looked sloppy against Mercer and barely escaped The Swamp.
The defense gave up too many big plays against Tennessee despite a decisive victory. Then, down the stretch, the Crimson Tide defeated LSU, Arkansas and Auburn by a combined 15 points, needing four overtimes to silence the Auburn Tigers.
Bulldogs usually salivate, but the Georgia Bulldogs were waiting in its home state swimming in the drool at the idea of its elite defense taking on Alabama. After all, Georgia only allowed seven touchdowns all year, displaying a force that college football fans and analysts thought no longer possible.
But, the college football world seemed to have glossed over what this sport is. It's a gladiator sport. The strong survive. Strength is only acquired through hardship. Muscles have to be broken down to build back stronger. The mind has to be tested to gain knowledge. A collective will is strengthened by perseverance.
Georgia didn't face these things. Georgia's strength of schedule got a massive boost thanks to the SEC Championship against Alabama, but through the regular season it was one of the easiest routes in the SEC and it only go easier in hindsight.
Clemson had a down year, Auburn had a down year, Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee weren't ready to contend and Florida absolutely imploded. Throw in the typically soft out-of-conference matchups that most SEC teams take on, Georgia simply wasn't tested on the gridiron.
Alabama was. Ironically, those same teams that Alabama struggled with, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida were all decimated by the Bulldogs. But this only proves the point that the transitive property does not exist in college football. Each game exists in a vacuum.
And perception matters. Georgia, not Alabama, was billed as the unstoppable force. Georgia had the benefit of beating teams by showing up. Winning via perceived intimidation.
Alabama was perceived to be vulnerable.
Those teams that bring their best game against Crimson Tide felt like they had a chance that maybe didn't exist mentally against Georgia.
But being tested and labeled as the underdog proved to be a boost for Alabama. It created what Nick Saban labeled as "yummy" rat poison.
Naturally, Alabama's offensive line handled Georgia's front seven excellently, allowing Bryce Young to manhandle the Bulldogs' unproven secondary to an SEC Championship game record of 412 yards alongside his elite weapons Jameson Williams and John Metchie.
In all of the overshadowing of Alabama's chances, the Crimson Tide internalized the underdog mentality it is not used to having. This team has proven to be externally motivated and all of the negativity boiled into a perfect dish of revenge that Alabama served freezing cold to the Bulldogs.
Will Anderson put it plainly after the game Saturday. It was downright silly to doubt Alabama in the fashion fans and media alike chose to over the past few months.
When was the last time the public chose a football game and ignored which team had the better head coach and quarterback? It doesn't happen often. And when it does, it usually backfires. Saturday night was a prime example.
As the Crimson Tide prepares for the next three weeks to meet the undefeated Cincinnati Bearcats in Arlington, Texas in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff, just remember throughout the tournament Alabama has three vital traits: the best head coach, the best quarterback and a serious need to continue to shut up everyone who thought they'd found the cure for their Alabama fatigue.