Great expectations: For Alabama, winning SEC titles isn’t enough

dcloninger@thestate.comJuly 18, 2013 

— Naturally, Alabama was picked to win the SEC championship and, naturally, Alabama’s representatives at SEC Media Days paid it no mind.

Most of it was because preseason predictions, like verbal contracts, are worth about as much as the paper they’re not written on. Some of it is because the Crimson Tide, after winning the past two national championships and three of the past four, know that expectations for 2013 are high above a conference title.

Seniors A.J. McCarron, C.J. Mosley and Anthony Steen are all used to the confetti raining down on them as they stand at midfield, clad in brand-new caps and T-shirts proclaiming their greatness, taking turns holding the crystal football. It’s expected, not hoped.

This season is no different. All know that they’ll be judged on whether or not they win a third consecutive national championship, and viewed by some as failures if they don’t.

Tough love?

No, Alabama football.

“Even we would say that’s a disappointment,” Mosley said on Thursday. “The way we work, the way we pride ourselves on every game, we expect nothing less.”

As usual, the lobby of The Wynfrey was jammed with Alabama fans, one who wore a foam replica of a championship ring on his head, each hoping for an autograph. It’s great to be an Alabama fan these days, but lurking in the minds of many is the silly-but-realistic thought — there will be anger if Alabama doesn’t win a third consecutive championships.

That’s OK. Part of the contract.

“I’m going to be disappointed,” McCarron said. “Nobody holds me to a higher standard than myself. If we don’t win it, I’ll be upset enough for everybody’s share.”

The Tide received 182 of 243 votes from the SEC media to win the league championship, and are the early favorite in Las Vegas to three-peat as national champs. With 14 returning starters and the way the Tide have persevered through regular-season losses in each of the past two years to reach the BCS Championship Game, it’s a smart bet.

The schedule sets up well, although Alabama begins in Atlanta against Virginia Tech and then travels to Texas A&M, the only team to beat the Crimson Tide last year. If Bama gets through those two with no trouble, the biggest challenge left is LSU on Nov. 9, and that’s a home game.

Still, it’s hard to win a national title. That Alabama has done it with seeming ease in three of the past four years doesn’t reflect that.

Coach Nick Saban, who also won a championship at LSU to make his personal total of four, has been compared to the fabled Paul “Bear” Bryant, which he said was inaccurate.

“I don’t think I have any reason that anybody should do that,” Saban said. “I think Bear Byant is probably the greatest coach in college football in terms of what he accomplished, what his legacy is.”

His legacy was winning on top of more winning. A tough act to follow, but Saban has done it.

Yet at Alabama, it’s a case of, “What have you done for me lately?”

“You can put some of that on the fans,” Mosley said. “When you sign to go to Alabama, that’s a high expectation each year, so you got to make sure you buy into the system and make sure we hold ourselves accountable to Alabama standards so we can put ourselves in that situation every year.”

The Tide have forgotten about last year. McCarron said he celebrated for 48 hours after the game and then began preparing for this year. Three in a row isn’t what he’s thinking of — it’s next game, next season, next win.

“I don’t even wear my rings,” he said. “I let my parents wear them. I don’t even want to look at them right now.”

Too much of a reminder. And of what’s expected.

DAY 3 VIDEOS

Nick Saban - Alabama coach

AJ McCarron - Alabama QB

Mark Richt - Georgia coach

Aaron Murray - Georgia QB

Les Miles - LSU coach

James Franklin - Vanderbilt coach

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