Tide on verge of entering its scariest of months
You think today is a scary day?
For Alabama football in recent years, it’s what’s come after this day that’s become scary.
November just hasn’t been the Tide’s month for a while. In fact, it’s been since 2009 that Alabama has traversed through the eleventh month of the year unscathed. And even in ’09 there were a couple of — yes, scary — close calls — a 24-15 home win over LSU on Nov. 7 and a 26-21 come-from-behind win at Auburn on Nov. 27.
In 2010, Alabama didn’t just stumble once in November. It stumbled twice. That Tide team lost to LSU 24-21 on Nov. 6 and to Auburn 28-27 on Nov. 26. In 2011, it was LSU again that tripped up the Tide — that season by a 9-6 margin in overtime. That was on Nov. 5. Last season’s November thorn was Texas A&M. The Aggies upset the Tide 29-24 on Nov. 10 in Tuscaloosa.
Well, Alabama doesn’t have to worry about Johnny Manziel & Co. this November. The Tide already exacted a little payback on those guys back in September. But the other two teams that have logged November wins over the Tide over the last three years — LSU and Auburn? They’re one flip of the calendar away now.
And, yes, both LSU and Auburn appear to have squads fully capable of upsetting even this Alabama edition — as dominant as it’s looked in recent weeks. LSU is 7-2 and ranked No. 13 in the country, while Auburn is 7-1 and No. 11 in the country. Auburn’s lone loss came against LSU, 35-21, back on Sept. 22.
Alabama gets LSU at home on Nov. 9 but has to travel to Auburn on Nov. 30.
It doesn’t help Alabama either that it will have to tackle November without the services of Vinnie Sunseri, the Tide’s starting strong safety through the first seven games. Sunseri suffered a season-ending knee injury against Arkansas on Oct. 19.
Sure, Alabama got past Tennessee just fine without him last week, winning 45-10. And, sure, Landon Collins, Sunseri’s replacement at strong safety, is a heckuva player with huge upside. But don’t tell Nick Saban Alabama is OK without Sunseri.
“I think the cumulative effect of the season probably affects every team, to some degree,” Saban said this week, addressing Alabama’s November struggles in recent years. “I think physically, as you lose players, some people don’t think that has any effect on your team, but it has a lot of effect on your team.
“Every time you lose a player, not only does it affect the guy playing his position but the trickle-down effect of where he played on special teams, who takes his place, what was the role of the guy that’s taking his place on special teams, who has to take his place now that he’s going to be playing more plays in a game. I think psychologically the grind of trying to get ready to play your best football every game becomes more and more challenging, especially when guys are trying to overcome more and more adversity.”
With Sunseri out, one big chunk of adversity has already come Alabama’s way.
So is there any good news now that October is in its final hours? Yeah. If Alabama can somehow navigate its way through November, December and January are up next. Alabama — 6-0 in those two wintery months since 2009 — certainly likes playing after November.
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