Throw beads in the general direction of Crimson Tide coaches and some players, and they might throw them back … hard.
One gets the feeling there’s more than a chip on Alabama’s shoulder pads. It’s a whole capstone, and they’d like to launch it as far as their combined strength can.
The Alabama camp seems to feel disrespected. In other words, it’s feeling a lot like 1993 in New Orleans, and we all know how that turned out.
It’s not a matter of the college football world dismissing any notion that Alabama could actually beat its opponent in Monday’s Bowl Championship Series final. Oddsmakers are trending toward No. 2 Alabama as a slight favorite against No. 1 LSU, but neither team is favored by more than 2 points.
Still, one senses an attitude similar to the one that helped Alabama to its stunning rout of heavily favored Miami in the 1993 Sugar Bowl, a rout that clinched the school’s 12th national title. What’s different now?
The new ‘tude just seems to arise from the collective sting of many paper cuts.
Talk Saturday covered how an Alabama defense that ranks among the school’s best struggles against the option, which LSU likes to run. Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was asked, and his defensiveness on the subject was palpable.
“Gotta be prepared for the option,” he mocked. “Everybody makes a big deal about the option. They ran the option last time.
“Everybody forgets we played Jordan Jefferson a year before in Baton Rouge, and they ran a lot of plays that Jordan runs. We’re excited about the opportunity.”
Talk earlier this week centered on the failure of Alabama’s offense to score a touchdown in a 9-6 loss to LSU on Nov. 5.
Jim McElwain, the usually easy-going offensive coordinator who just landed his first head-coaching gig at Colorado State, smiled around gnashed teeth. He reminded everyone that Alabama had the SEC’s second-ranked offense and top-ranked rushing offense this season.
Quarterback AJ McCarron balked at what he described as a perception of Alabama’s offense as “second class” to its defense.
And speaking of McCarron, the weak-link undercurrent rides just under the verbiage of questions asked about him and of him. When they talk about the quarterback matchup around here, they talk about Jefferson running the option.
Then there’s the matter of McCarron’s sub-par performance in the first game against LSU, and he admitted he didn’t play with enough emotion in that game. Since today’s pad-conforming jerseys have no sleeves, he’s wearing his signature emotion right next to Alabama’s collective stone — on his shoulder.
“Playing them the first time was a special experience for me, just the tradition between Alabama and LSU and the rivalry they’ve always had,” he said. “It wasn’t that great of an experience coming out with a loss.
“But as a team, we felt like we kind of let it slip through our fingers and get away from us in the end, and hopefully, this time, we won’t let that happen.”
What McCarron let slip was potential bulletin-board stuff for LSU, and this coming from the quarterback of what’s normally a very controlled Alabama camp.
Alabama is on LSU’s home turf. Tide players and coaches are seen not just by media from Alabama but also Louisiana and national media.
Questions betray perceptions the Alabama camp doesn’t like, and that’s not counting questions about whether some other team should be here in the Tide’s place.
It’s not exactly what Alabama coach Nick Saban would call “positive self-gratification,” but even the planet’s most control-freak coach seems content to let it flow.
Will it eat this Alabama team up, or will the Tide feed off it like that team from 19 years ago?
Given how the slogan “never again” has motivated this Alabama team since its loss to Auburn in 2010, it’s feeling a lot like 1993 around here.
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.