Saban: Latest SEC games debunk predictions’ value

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-5 teams Florida State 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.”