GAMEDAY: Testing the waterBy Kayla Montgomery | 10/09/2015 9:50am
Derrick Henry runs the ball up the middle against Georgia. CW | Layton Dudley
When Alabama prepared to travel to Athens, Georgia, to take on the University of Georgia, pundits knew a storm was coming; they just slightly missed its course. For the first time in 72 games, Alabama was entering a competition as an underdog, and had lost its first September game since 2007. Across the country, columns were fired off about how the dynasty was over. No one was afraid of Alabama anymore, they said, and perhaps coach Nick Saban was losing his grip in the college football world, one he once ruled with an iron fist.
For a program that supposedly tunes out the noise, Saban and the Crimson Tide listened. As the rain drove on in Athens, Alabama drove up and down the field, defeating the Bulldogs 38-10 on their own turf. Georgia never stood a chance against the rising Tide, and as has happened so many times before, the Bulldogs retreated with their tails between their legs while Alabama made a statement.
Just as quickly as the dynasty-is-over columns were written, the opinions were reversed. Save the story for another week, they wrote, Alabama is back, and as the team sloshed through the mud in Athens, it looked like a true national-title contender, a completely different team than the one that looked inept against Ole Miss in weeks prior. The defense looked unbeatable, save for one blown play, special teams finally looked like something other than a hot mess and quarterback Jake Coker took control of an offense that had been questionable throughout the early season.
Athens was a test for this Alabama team. It was its first chance to respond to adversity, to make a real statement and to challenge itself to play at Alabama standards. It was a chance to show the nation the Crimson Tide wasn’t washed out to sea just yet, and this team deserved more respect than it was given. It passed with flying colors last weekend, but this weekend presents a different type of test to be taken.
Arkansas will come to Tuscaloosa on Saturday with a losing record. Sitting at 2-3, the Razorbacks have been embarrassed by Toledo and Texas Tech, but played a close game against Texas A&M and squeaked out of Neyland Stadium with a victory over Tennessee. This won’t be the most talented or the most challenging opponent Alabama faces this season, but how the Crimson Tide handles the game will be true indication of the identity of this team.
The Crimson Tide has been inconsistent at best this season, going from its lowest to highest points in a matter of only two weeks. With its back against a wall, Alabama came out swinging, but this week, that motivation is no longer there. No one doubts Alabama’s authenticity after it’s dismantling of Georgia, and many of the skeptics have been rendered silent by the Crimson Tide’s performance.
With the noise softened, Alabama will have to find a new source of motivation. The team will need to focus on the task at hand, leaving last week’s big win behind them. Last year, after a big loss, the team barely squeaked past Arkansas in Fayetteville. This year, the team will again be tested in how well it can check its emotions at the door and focus on the present opponent.
Often times, how a team responds to a loss is its biggest test, but for this team, how it responds to a win may be even more important.