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November 11, 2012

HURT: Only thing Tide controls is next opponent

You know all those terrible things you hear Alabama fans say about Lane Kiffin? Cheater, spoiled brat, Daddy's Boy, deflator of footballs? It turns out they are just good-natured jokes, right, a little fraternal ribbing among pals?

The same thing goes for Mack Brown. Alabama fans feel your pain about Colt McCoy's injury, Mack. And UA alumnus Mike Riley can surely feel the love from his old school, even though he chose to stay out West and led to Mike Price's hiring.

For the next three weeks, at least, those guys - along with Stanford's David Shaw - are Alabama's favorite football coaches, because they are the ones that can provide the help the Crimson Tide needs to improbably find its way back into another BCS Championship appearance. Saturday's 29-24 loss to Texas A&M damaged Alabama's hopes badly, but didn't kill them.

If Alabama and Georgia continue to win as expected in the next two weeks, the team that emerges from the Dec. 1 SEC Championship Game in Atlanta will be the top one-loss contender for the BCS game. But there are three unbeaten teams ahead of the SEC in line and someone has to knock those teams out for Alabama (or the Bulldogs) to have a chance.

Kiffin, in fact, could do double duty, since he could knock off Notre Dame in the Trojans' regular-season finale in Los Angeles, then take care of Oregon in a PAC-12 title game rematch the next week. That is a tall order, but the Trojans do have the talent to make it happen if they can play disciplined football, an art that has eluded them at times this season.

Alabama was also in need of help last season, but not as much. The overtime loss to LSU in November 2011 only dropped Alabama one spot in the BCS rankings (from No. 2 to No. 3) and while it eliminated some conversation when Stanford and Boise State were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten the following week, the only team Alabama actually had to leapfrog was Oklahoma State. When the Cowboys lost at Iowa State, the door was open, and Alabama didn't even have to play in an SEC Championship Game to get there.

This year will be more problematic. It is certainly possible that two unbeatens could lose, but it isn't a given - and Alabama will have to shore up quite a few areas if it wants to beat Georgia in Atlanta (assuming a clinching win over 2-8 Auburn, winless in SEC play this year.)

That reconstruction will include regaining some confidence. Two weeks ago, Alabama felt that it could stop any opponent defensively.

Now, UA is coming off two straight performances in which that sense of dominance, that swagger, was punctured.

The remaining two opponents in the regular season are a combined 3-17 and should be no problem to stifle. Whether that will revive a feeling of dominance heading to the Georgia Dome is a different question.

All Alabama can control is its next two games. Nothing else is an absolute guarantee.

It is quite possible that the Crimson Tide won't get the breaks two years in a row even if it wins.

Still, saying a little prayer for Lane Kiffin might seem downright unpalatable to Alabama fans - but it could be a worthwhile exercise.



Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.



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