Alabama still has much to play for

Jason Galloway

BATON ROUGE, La. | The sequel to last year’s fairy tale does not have a happy ending.

With Alabama’s 24-21 loss to LSU on Saturday, nothing short of a miracle could save Alabama’s national championship hopes. But, the Crimson Tide hasn’t forgotten that there are still a few games left in the 2010 season.

“We’re not going to just go out there and sit down and lose the rest of the games,” said junior running back Mark Ingram. “We still can play to have a 10-win season and play for a New Year’s bowl game, so we still have a lot to play for.”

Alabama will likely drop to the mid-teens in the rankings after the loss, and its chances of even making the Southeastern Conference Championship game are slim to none. Undefeated Auburn would have to drop games to Georgia and Alabama, and LSU would need to lose to at least either Arkansas or Ole Miss for the Tide to have a chance at the SEC West title.

This is not a position Alabama is used to. The Tide is coming off two straight SEC West titles and has gone into the month of December with the likelihood of a national championship berth. Less than a week into November this year, those expectations are gone.

“This whole year, everyone around us has been very concerned about the results that the team gets compared to what was accomplished a year ago,” head coach Nick Saban said, “and I think that has not been the best thing for this development of this team. I think they have become too result-oriented, and we’ve never really developed to be as good of team as we can be.”

Sophomore offensive lineman Barrett Jones said he and his teammates have spent too much time looking ahead to the possibility of another championship and not focusing on the process they must take to get to that point.

“I think we saw what happened last year and we saw a national championship, and we wanted to repeat that,” he said. “We were focusing too much on winning a national championship and not how to get there.”

So, what motivation does Alabama have now? Going into a season No. 1 with its mind on a national championship repeat, a second loss ends the chance at what the team hoped to accomplish.

“Your pride should never go away – your pride individually and for the University of Alabama,” Ingram said. ““Everybody has to dig deep. Nobody needs to hang their head because we had great effort today. Tomorrow, it will be behind us, and we’ve got to move on.”

Saban said, “My thing as a coach is still, ‘Are we the best team we can be? Are we playing the best football we can play? Are you playing as an individual the best you could be?’ I think that has to become the focus for this team. It will certainly show us what kind of competitive character that we have and what kind of pride that we have as an organization, as a group and as a team to see how we respond to this.”