That’s one way to ring in 2016.
Alabama left no doubt about whether it deserves a place in the College Football Playoff title game on New Year’s Eve, steamrolling Michigan State in a 38-0 shutout at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium. The Crimson Tide’s dominant display sealed an 11th straight win since taking its lone loss of the season against Ole Miss on Sept. 19.
“I love this team, I really do,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said on ESPN after the game. “This team has really made a commitment since the Ole Miss game, sort of been in an elimination game ever since we lost that game early in the season. The guys have just bought in and done everything we ask them to do.”
Between that defeat and the Tide’s disappointing loss to Ohio State in last year’s Playoff semifinal, some wondered whether the 2015 squad had enough fortitude to take care of business this time around. But quarterback Jacob Coker’s precise passing (25-of-30 passing, 286 yards, two touchdowns), stifling defense and continued special teams excellence from ace return man Cyrus Jones answered any lingering questions emphatically.
“I think the players learned a lot from what happened in the game last year,” Saban said. “I was not always pleased with the way we prepared for the game. Maybe we were a little bit too complacent. And I take responsibility for all that… This year’s team was totally focused on the game. I let them decide what the curfews are. 12:00, 12:00, 11:00, 11:00. The whole time we were here, it was total focus on winning the game, and that was the most important thing. It wasn’t a bowl game to go have a good time.”
All that’s left now is for Alabama to finish its quest for championship No. 11 by beating Clemson in Arizona on Jan. 11. And, for what it’s worth, Saban claims he has known this team is capable of special things since its Nov. 7 rout of then-No. 2 LSU.
“I think after the bye week, when we played LSU. I think from that point on, I said ‘We’ve got something here. We might be able to accomplish something here,” Saban said.