Alabama coach Nick Saban and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops each have their programs at different crossroads.
For Saban and the Crimson Tide, the college football world will be watching to see how they respond from the last-second Iron Bowl loss.
Will this be the 2008 Sugar Bowl loss to Utah in which Alabama stumbled into the game following a tough SEC Championship Game defeat at the hands of Florida?
Or will this resemble the 2010 Capital One Bowl, where a three loss Alabama team steamrolled Michigan State? Multiple players have cited the troubles of the 2010 season as one of the biggest motivations for the team’s ensuing back-to-back national championships.
“I think one of our players said it best: Our victory is what defeated us,” Saban said Wednesday. “When you win, sometimes you start to lose focus on things that are important to being successful. The process of things that you do to pay attention to detail, play with discipline, do the little things correctly, all of a sudden don’t seem as important, and you don’t pay attention to these things, and all of a sudden it starts to show up in your play.”
For Stoops and the Sooners, every storyline surrounding them has been about whether they belong on the field with one of the SEC’s and the country's elite teams.
Stoops said the Tide “in my eyes, they’re still the best team in the country.” He also called linebacker C.J. Mosley, who was voted team most valuable player, “a perfect player.” So it’s no wonder why many consider this to be a mismatch, especially with the Sooners being a 15- to 17-point underdog.
Are the Sooners big enough upfront to handle the Tide’s offensive line? How are they handling being an underdog? On Wednesday, Stoops shot down the notion the Sooners’ coaching staff was playing up the underdog role.
“I don’t see that, not at a place like Oklahoma,” Stoops said. “That isn’t something that we’ve ever -- I don’t know how to do that, to be quite honest with you. That’s nothing -- that’s not one of our motivational methods.”
Most of the questions directed toward Saban surrounded the Tide’s big picture situation and only a few were about the actual matchup on the field.
During Stoops session, reporters continued to push him on if the Sooners have what it takes to defeat the SEC. But Stoops didn’t want to go there, either.
“(We’re) thinking about what we need to do to win just like we do each game,” Stoops said. “What are the things you do well, what are the things you’ve got to stay away from, how do we play smart and do the things that we’re used to doing to give ourselves an opportunity to win the game. That’s it.”
Sports Writer Marq Burnett: On Twitter @Marq_Burnett.