Joe Medley: Trap game? Tide facing trap season
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
Oct 10, 2012 | 6128 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama running back Eddie Lacy carries the ball past Ole Miss defenders. (Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
Alabama running back Eddie Lacy carries the ball past Ole Miss defenders. (Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
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TUSCALOOSA — Alabama fans should never worry that Nick Saban will miss a chance to send messages to his players, but there is another worry this season.

With opponents shrinking in esteem weekly, Saban just might run out of fresh ways to stoke their attention and motivation.

Never mind the concept of the trap game, which Saturday’s game at Missouri could be. It’s quickly becoming a trap season, especially considering the Crimson Tide’s thinning margin for error, and Saban is beyond outshouting media that build up his team.

Now, he must also outshout mediocrity.

“There is a lot of parity in college football,” he told media Monday, in this week’s more modulated rant. “The teams that most of you in this room make head and shoulders above other teams obviously showed you how badly you can be mistaken.

“I know I can be mistaken and get criticized, but you all 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 that the only thing predictable about college football is that it’s unpredictable.”

Saban referred to “Shakeup Saturday,” which saw three top-five teams lose for the first time since 2008. Nine ranked teams fell overall.

No. 3 Florida State lost to unranked N.C. State in the day’s biggest shocker.

No. 4 LSU lost to No. 10 Florida, and LSU has scored just 18 points in its past two SEC games.

No. 5 Georgia lost to No. 6 South Carolina by the day’s most shocking margin — 35-7.

The scary portion of Alabama’s schedule had already narrowed to the Tide’s Nov. 3 game at LSU. After LSU’s shaky showings against Auburn, Towson and Florida, Alabama’s scary game seems postponed until the SEC Championship.

Alabama appears headed for a clash with the Oct. 20 winner between South Carolina and Florida.

Meanwhile, the teams on Alabama’s schedule keep retreating.

Preseason-No. 8 Michigan is No. 25 in the AP poll and receiving votes in USA Today. The Wolverines’ drop came partly because of a 41-14 loss to Alabama.

Later-No. 8 Arkansas fell out of the rankings with its 52-0 loss to Alabama, taking the second-largest tumble out of the Associated Press poll ever.

So much for the three games people thought Alabama could lose this season.

As for the rest of Alabama’s opponents, only Western Kentucky, Texas A&M and No. 19 Mississippi State have gained esteem. Western is 4-1, its only loss to Alabama, and getting votes in the USA Today poll. Texas A&M (4-1) has SEC wins over Arkansas and Ole Miss and played Florida closely. State (5-0) is off to its best start since 1999.

Then again, State’s start includes victories over fast-sinking Kentucky and Auburn, and has anyone seen Auburn lately?

The instate rival set to play Alabama on Nov. 24 is 1-4, still seeking an offensive identity, back to seeking a starting quarterback and could be seeking a head coach.

Tennessee, set to play Alabama a week from Saturday, started well but got exposed in losses to Florida and Georgia.

Then there’s wounded Missouri, missing its starting quarterback and smarting from losses in its first three SEC games. The Tigers, who laughed off questions about their adjustment to SEC life, lost to perennial league doormat Vanderbilt on Saturday.

To sum things up, the schedule has done Alabama no favors. It hasn’t hurt the Tide, which has 226 out of 232 possible first-place votes in the AP, USA Today and Harris Interactive polls, but Alabama had better not lose against that schedule.

Enough of the country feels burned that a one-loss Alabama team got a second crack at LSU for last season’s national title, and acute SEC fatigue has grown up around the league’s six consecutive national titles.

Too, folks are falling in love with the prospect of a scoring binge between undefeated Oregon and West Virginia, currently No. 2 and No. 5, respectively.

Saban must keep finding ways to stave off a letdown, so maybe he should hire speech consultants to help him stock up on fresh musings over the media. It’s starting to sound like the same old same-old.

“The key to the whole thing is consistency in performance,” he said, “having a group of players committed to doing the things that they need to do to play the game at a high standard and a high level all the time, regardless of the circumstances or the situation.”

Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.
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