Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Alabama: If we would have only...

This series of articles revisits the games over the past 10 years that we should still be thinking about and occasionally still wake us up at night. Looking back, the games that hurt the most are the ones that kept teams from achieving what they never had (SEC Championship for some, BCS bowl for others, etc.), as opposed to the ones where teams gave up the biggest lead or lost to the weakest opponent. The games become even more upsetting after the fact when other teams end up losing games they shouldn’t have and we look at the season as a whole. These are the games that make us utter the most commonly used phrase in college football, “If we would have only…”

No Bowl Game: Vanderbilt
No SEC Championship Game: Kentucky, Ole Miss, South Carolina
Been to Atlanta but never won: Arkansas, Mississippi State
No BCS Bowl Win: Alabama
No BCS National Championship: Auburn, Georgia
No need to feel too badly for you: Florida, LSU, Tennessee

Alabama – 2000 Orange Bowl

The students at Alabama right now may not remember it, but the Tide was a force in the SEC in the 1990’s (and before – I know, I know; Bear Bryant was awesome). Bama is only 15 years removed from their last national championship, but the fans still don’t have a BCS bowl win on their resume. What’s so disappointing about it is they absolutely blew their one chance – in the 2000 Orange Bowl against Michigan. This is the one game they need back, getting the nod over the close November losses to LSU and Auburn in 2005 to stop the undefeated campaign.

Bama started the 1999 year with a September loss to Louisiana Tech, but still managed to get to Atlanta by taking care of business in a fairly week Western division. The most exciting regular season win came at Florida, when Bama won on a botched Gator PAT in overtime. Their only SEC loss was to defending national champ Tennessee. When they played Florida the second time around in Atlanta, they put a 34-7 beatdown on the Gators. By that time, it seemed like everything had fallen into place for the Tide. Shaun Alexander was the best running back in the nation, student body president, and America’s hero among other things. Mike Dubose seemed like he had finally found his rhythm. The defense only allowed 12 points a game over the last 5 games, and Andrew Zow was wasn't losing games as QB.

Winning SEC Championships wasn’t anything new for the Tide; they were the first to do it. At the time, their fans probably thought BCS bowls would be an every year thing. Nonetheless, we stand here 10 years after the start of the BCS bowls and the Tide don’t have a win to their credit. They blew plenty of chances (and two 14 point leads) in the Orange Bowl, but the Wolverines matched up well with Bama. The Tide couldn't stop the Helmets when it counted, and the Tom Brady to David Terrell combo wasn't stopped the whole game. Brady hit the TE for a 25-yard TD on the first play of OT, and it only took Bama two plays to return the favor. Tide kicker Ryan Pflugner pushed the PAT wide right at the end of the first overtime, though, to end the shootout 35-34.

Alabama is one of only 3 teams to lose its BCS bowl in the same year it won the SEC Championship game, and the only team that has won in Atlanta but never won a BCS bowl.