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November 17, 2012

HURT: Get excited about Auburn, Georgia

It was appropriate enough, watching Alabama roll past Western Carolina in New York City, the pace of the city matching the rolling clock of the second half, an entire game, like the Manhattan culture, dedicated to moving on to the next destination as rapidly as possible, so much so that it almost made me forget to punctuate.

There was eventually time to catch a breath. One could watch players such as Blake Sims and Brent Calloway perform for the sake of evaluating their future. But this was barely a stopover as Alabama barrels into the Auburn game.

It is hard to view that yet-to-be-determined outcome as more than a technicality, hard not to talk about a Crimson Tide trip to Atlanta for a championship game matchup with Georgia. In New York, interest on Saturday was understandably scant.

One normally busy Alabama watching-and-watering spot was half-full, with much of the crowd consisting of tourists from Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. Another UA-friendly spot had been taken over by Rutgers fans. The stands at Bryant-Denny seemed sparsely populated, too.

The opponent, obviously, contributed to that. No one expected anything less than the 49-0 blowout, although a few people might have expected more.

But it also made me wonder if Alabama's expectations are now at a point where last week's UA loss to Texas A&M has caused more than a few fans to shrug their shoulders and say "better luck next year," disappointed in anything less than a BCS championship.

If so, that is unfortunate. Winning against Auburn is always important for Alabama. So are Southeastern Conference championships. Perhaps everyone will be back on the train for the rest of the ride, even if the destination isn't going to be Miami. It still might happen, although anyone counting on Lane Kiffin for help could get just the result you would expect if you were sinking in quicksand and tossed the rescue rope to Honey Boo Boo.

At this point, it is probably time for Alabama fans to stop worrying about all the Miami combinations and accept that wins over Auburn and Georgia will make for a good season and it is unlikely that the Houlgate System or Football Thesaurus will come along to change things.

Now, Nick Saban might have overstated things a bit in his postgame comments when he said "obviously we are going to have a difficult game next week."

"You throw everything out the window in terms of records when you play rivalry games," Saban added. "It's going to be important that we have a good week this week."

It will take a pretty large window to throw the records through this week. Alabama's seven-game edge in the win column is the largest in the series since 1950. Perhaps Auburn can hope Alabama suffers a second straight week of post-Texas A&M malaise - or BCS disappointment - but it would take a crippling depression to equalize things.

But when Saban says "a good week," though, people need to realize precisely what he is saying. The frustration level of the head coach at Alabama stays relatively high, but the single greatest source has to be a fan base that is dismissive of a potential 13-1 Sugar Bowl and SEC championship season that includes a (potential) win over Auburn. What a distant memory 2007, and Auburn's long winning streak, has become.

For at least a week, Alabama fans need to forget what this year could have been - and concentrate more on what it could still be.



Recruiting: Derrick Henry talks of selling the Tide program to other prospects

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


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