Last year, the Alabama Crimson Tide won every regular season SEC game by at least three touchdowns. The offense, led by Heisman Trophy runner-up Tua Tagovailoa, scored 45.6 points per game (3rd in the FBS), averaged 522.0 yards per game (6th), converted over 52 percent of its third downs (3rd) and scored fewer than 24 points only once.
As coach Nick Saban and the Tide sulked into the locker room at Levi's Stadium, it was Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers hoisting the College Football Playoff National Championship trophy. After a 14-13 first quarter, quarterback Trevor Lawrence (347 yards, 3 TDs) and running back Travis Etienne (91 total yards, 3 TDs) led a lights-out performance by the Tigers. It was the second time in four years Clemson was crowned champions.
The other two trophies in that span, which again, people seem to forget, reside in Tuscaloosa.
A frustrating end to last season is all-but-forgotten at the University of Alabama. At least, that's the impression Saban and his three players — quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, and linebacker Dylan Moses — gave at SEC Media Days 2019 in Hoover, Alabama.
Alabama at SEC Media Days
"Like Coach Saban always says, 'So what? Now what?'" Jerry Jeudy, the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner as college football's top receiver, said at SEC Media Days. "So what we lost last year? Now what? Now what're we going to do about it to improve our game this year to not finish off the season how we did last year?"
One of the day's themes among the Alabama football representatives was "preparation." Everyone mentioned it, and it feels like a point of emphasis going forward into 2019 season.
"Being able to just watch the [national championship game] and look at all the things that gone wrong and look at the mistakes that I could've not made. I (should've) taken what they gave me. Last year, we were goal-oriented and looked at the scoreboard too much instead of just playing. But it's hard. Throughout the entire season, we didn't have to play catch up. It was a whole new ball game (against Clemson)."
— UA quarterback Tua Tagovailoa
Tagovailoa set Alabama records for passing yards (3,966) and touchdown passes (43), both of which rank top-4 in SEC history, last season. He also shattered Southeastern Conference records for yards per attempt (11.2) and passing efficiency (199.4).
Yet, it's little things like the star QB's health that was most important in the offseason.
"The biggest thing from last season was going into the training room and getting treatment, even if I didn't need it," Tagovailoa said. "Just arm care. Taking care of my legs. Just the little things that make up for the big things. We always hear that, but it's very true."
To be sure, those necessary, habitual acts didn't only fall short on the field. Even Saban, entering his 13th season in Tuscaloosa, knows that more of those little things should've been done within the coaching staff leading up to the CFP title game.
"If you're a competitor, you're going to respond in a positive way and learn from the things that you didn't do, whether those things were in preparation, game-day decisions, you know, the habits that you created leading up to the game the second half of the season. All of those things contribute to, are we going to be able to have success against one of the best teams, or the best team, in the country.
"And we obviously didn't do that (against Clemson). That's my responsibility."
— Alabama head coach Nick Saban
"It was more preparation. I wouldn't say [Clemson was] a better team," junior linebacker Dylan Moses said. The second-team All-SEC selection even tossed one more tidbit into the mix that's sure to ruffle some feathers in Clemson, South Carolina.
"Georgia is definitely the hardest team I have played in college," he said.
The Crimson Tide opens its season with a neutral site game against the Duke Blue Devils for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta, Georgia. With only four true road games — South Carolina, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Auburn — the path seems clear for Alabama to run the table once again and reach the SEC Championship Game.
For all that happen, a full season of preparation, regular habits and "the little things" needs to be put in place if UA wants to capture its 18th national championship.
SEC Media Days Schedule
Monday, July 15
- Barry Odom, Missouri
- Dan Mullen, Florida
- Ed Orgeron, LSU
Tuesday, July 16
- Kirby Smart, Georgia
- Matt Luke, Ole Miss
- Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee
- Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M
Wednesday, July 17
- Nick Saban, Alabama
- Chad Morris, Arkansas
- Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State
- Will Muschamp, South Carolina
Thursday, July 18
- Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
- Mark Stoops, Kentucky
- Gus Malzahn, Auburn
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