Alabama head coach Nick Saban, left, and Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, December 05, 2013 9:49 PM
Here’s the deal.
The rest of the country has been facing SEC Fatigue, and the SEC has been battling acute Bama Fatigue, all of which goes a long way in explaining why Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is suddenly everybody’s favorite uncle.
Malzahn, of course, risked blasphemy, if not eternal damnation, by outcoaching Nick Saban in that Iron Bowl last weekend.
This is so much balderdash, of course, although admittedly it was a little refreshing to learn that Saban is, after all, human.
Basically, that’s about all I can find to charge Saban with in this case, even though he has admitted (foolishly, his own fans say) to fighting extra hard to get that infamous second put back on the clock, where it could backfire in such grand and unexplainable fashion.
Malzahn “outcoached” the so-called Evil Empire in the same sense he “outcoached” Georgia’s Mark Richt two weeks previous, which is to say he brilliantly called for an underthrown pass into double coverage after blowing a 20-point fourth-quarter lead.
Sheer genius, that.
Again, though, it is somewhat reassuring to know that Saban is human and that there may be a glimmer of hope for the rest of college football even after he does not go to Texas.
I really wouldn’t be reading much more into it than that.
Despite all the dancing in the streets, there’s no real evidence it means an end to the Crimson Menace beyond this weekend.
Alabama — and, by association, Saban — had about a dozen chances to put away Auburn and claim its birthright annual crystal trophy.
By quirk of fate, all of the chances required tricky decisions, bordering on either/or moments that sometimes trickled into damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t territory.
Days like that are why head coaches get the big bucks.
Every one of them just happened to blow up in Saban’s face, including the classic uh-oh look when he realized his “fat boys” had no prayer of chasing down Chris Davis.
What are the odds that every one of them would somehow go against the Tide?
Every coach has games like that.
The same thing happened to Les Miles last year when it looked as if LSU had Bama on the ropes in Baton Rouge.
It just doesn’t happen to Saban.
Which was shocking.
My guess is that Alabama may still show up in Atlanta Saturday for the SEC championship game, just on the assumption that the conference will see the error of its ways and find some bylaw to put the Tide into the game.
Right now, though, the SEC is preoccupied with finding a way to extend the streak of seven consecutive BCS national championships.
Alabama is offering its services as a solution, but it must be terribly frustrating for the Tide to be shooed away, told by the conference to take the No. 3 and be seated.
At the moment, the SEC’s top priority is Auburn and Missouri, one of which will win the SEC title, but both of which as of now are on the outside looking in for one of the top two BCS spots.
The SEC no doubt is down in the office basement, crunching the numbers, planning the PR onslaught that allows its title winner to jump either Florida State or Ohio State.
Otherwise, you’re counting on Michigan State to beat Ohio State (not so wild a notion) or Duke to beat the Seminoles (uh, a little more of a problem).
For now the SEC seems to be working on the worst-case assumption — that a one-loss SEC team will have to leapfrog the unbeaten Buckeyes.
Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs is claiming that it would “un-American” to play the BCS championship without an SEC team involved.
That may be stretching it a tad — and I’m as patriotic as the next fellow — but I certainly wouldn’t put it past them.
I also wouldn’t write off Alabama yet, although the only way the Tide gets in is for BOTH Ohio State and Florida State to lose, which means Duke has to beat the Seminoles.
That’s normally a no-brainer, but remember, we’re talking about Alabama here. And if history teaches us anything, it’s that you can’t write off the Tide when talking national championship.
LSU thought it had accomplished something really, really big when it beat Alabama two years ago in what was affectionately known as the Game of the Century.
Then lowly Iowa State beat Oklahoma State — as ludicrous then as thinking a Duke upset could happen Saturday — which begat the mulligan known as the Rematch of the Century and bad news for the Tigers.
Alabama is even probably figuring it’s due for a break.
And that could make for another crazy weekend.
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Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org