Can anyone beat Alabama?

Published 12:01am Sunday, October 7, 2012

Florida Atlantic University defensive end Cory Henry made headlines a several weeks ago when he declared that Alabama “ain’t what people think.”

A big win over then-No.8 Michigan followed by blowout wins against Western Kentucky and Arkansas catapulted the Crimson Tide to a No. 1 overall ranking in the AP and USA Today Coaches polls. Alabama has remained at that position since.

Despite Henry’s opinion that Alabama “can (be) beat,” the Tide had little trouble against FAU Sept. 22, winning to the tune of 40-7.

But can Alabama be beaten? While Henry may have been doing little more than trying to get his teammates not to go into the game with a defeatist attitude, it’s a legit question.

First, let’s get one thing out of the way: As good as Alabama is, some of the talk surrounding the team is a bit much. For example, Western Kentucky head coach Willie Taggert said the Tide could be the NFL’s next expansion team the week leading up to his game with Alabama.

As good as Alabama is — at this point, they’re the clear No. 1 — they’re not an NFL team. Sure, Alabama has players that will play on Sundays in the future, but NFL teams are full of cream-of-the-crop athletes that are NFL players right now. If Alabama played the worst team in the NFL, my money’s on that team to beat the Tide handily.

But back to the question of whether Alabama can be beaten, the answer is yes. Anyone can be beaten — but you have to have the means to do so. Right now, there just aren’t many teams that do have the means.

If you asked me before this season, I would have told you LSU has what it takes to beat Alabama, and I still believe that. But after Saturday’s loss to Florida, things don’t seem to be on the right track in Baton Rouge.

LSU still controls its own destiny. Win out, and the Tigers are in the SEC championship. But a combination of injuries, underperformance at quarterback and underwhelming play in general has hindered the Tigers. The talent is there, but for some reason, we’re just not seeing LSU live up to expectations.

Florida will be an interesting team to watch. If the Gators can top Georgia and South Carolina, they’d be a dangerous team for Alabama to face in the SEC title game as an underdog.

South Carolina played impressive, physical football in its win against Georgia Saturday evening, but the Gamecocks have a tough schedule ahead of them. They’re on the road at LSU next week, then they travel to Florida Oct. 20. But South Carolina plays the kind of physical brand of football in the trenches that’s necessary to match up with the Tide. If the Gamecocks can somehow run the table in the SEC East, look out.

Outside the SEC, Oregon is worth keeping an eye on, assuming the Ducks continue to win as they have been. But the last two times Oregon faced an SEC team, LSU stomped the Ducks in the 2011 opener, and Auburn beat them for the 2010 national championship. Until they actually beat a top-tier SEC team, I’m going to have to remain skeptical.

There’s no way to know unless and until these teams square off. But neither Alabama nor any other team is a shoe-in to win a national title this year. As cliché as it is, that’s why you play the games.

 

Michael Kerekes is the sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3632 or michael.kerekes@natchezdemocrat.com.