TUSCALOOSA — Alabama coach Nick Saban says often he doesn’t like to compare teams, but he seems willing to make an exception with regard to the 2012 Tide vs. the 2010 version.
He said during preseason he hasn’t seen the problems that infected the 2010 squad bother the current Crimson Tide: “This team seems to be less affected by the previous year. ... They’re not really the 2010 team.”
If Alabama isn’t, then now is the time to prove it as the Crimson Tide (5-0) prepares to travel to Missouri (3-3) for the first time since 1978. Just like after five games in 2010, Alabama is hitting the road as the unbeaten and overwhelming No. 1-ranked team in the country in both major polls. The Tide is favored by 21½ points.
“This time of the season, if the season matters to you, now is the time to show the incentive you have to get excited about the opportunities you’ve created for yourself,” Saban said. “Great competitors care about how they perform.”
In 2010 at this point in the season, it was South Carolina, a 6½-point underdog, that snagged the 35-21 upset and knocked the Crimson Tide down the rankings, on its way to a 10-3 record.
Don’t think Alabama doesn’t recall that, especially after a weekend in which nine of The Associated Press’ Top 25 teams lost.
“I think what this weekend proved is the only thing predictable about college football is its unpredictability,” Saban said.
Plenty of Alabama players watched the weekend action, and by Monday, the party line was this: Don’t worry, we know it could happen to us, too.
“We take it as a wake-up call to us that anyone can be beaten. If we don’t bring our A Game and be ready for everybody every week, we could end up in the same boat,” Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley said.
For Saban, the solution to the upset bug is obvious.
“The key to the whole thing is consistency in performance, having a group of players that is committed to doing the things they need to do to play the game at a high standard and a high level all the time regardless of the circumstance or situation,” said Saban, who has had two Alabama teams go unbeaten in the regular season and one that lost one game.
Judging by Monday’s practice, Saban appeared to be getting the consistency he wanted. If he’s upset, he tends to unload during the period when the defensive backs practice their formations that include five or six of them on the field at once. On Monday, Saban seemed calm and composed, as the secondary went through its coverage work.
But Mosley said the players aren’t completely sure if Saban will apply the heat this week.
“Maybe, maybe not,” he said, smiling. “Sometimes you don’t know what to expect from him.”
He added, “But I’m pretty sure he’s going to bring some fire to the team.”
Maybe the most thoughtful, long-range consideration among Alabama players who spoke to reporters Monday came from senior guard Chance Warmack, who is known as a soft-spoken guy with a gentle sense of humor.
He isn’t looking just at Saturday’s game at Missouri but the next month. After Missouri, Alabama travels to Tennessee, hosts Mississippi State and then visits LSU for a rematch of last season’s BCS National Championship Game, which the Tide won.
“Honestly, we haven’t reached a point yet where we defined who we are,” he said. “I think we’re getting to that point this month in October what we actually are as a team, finding an identity for ourselves. As the months get longer, we’re going to have an identity for our team.”