For Alabama haters, Monday night offered sweet hope, an awesome-and-addicting rush of satisfaction.
The morning after provided a chance to tap dance on the Crimson Tide’s grave, however brief that jive may be.
Enjoy Clemson’s victory in the national championship game, people of the Plains. Savor this one, Death Valley dwellers. Relish the result, Rocky Top. Allow yourself to be overcome with joy, Ole Miss.
Hey, it seems like an Alabama loss happens as often as a solar eclipse these days, so it’s understandable that the anti-Roll Tide crowd would treat the Tigers slaying Nick Saban’s dragon like the second coming of the Kick Six.
Give Crimson Tide critics their time. For all those fans who have bellowed “S-E-C!” chants after memorable conquests, for all those who have taken part in declarations of conference pride from The Zou to The Swamp and all points within Greg Sankey’s footprint, there are others who cracked a sly smile after King Crimson Tide tanked in Tampa.
Who can blame them?
This might as well be Independence Day for Alabama rivals pinned down by the Crimson Tide’s thumb in recent years. Alabama’s blitzkrieg of the SEC the past three seasons impressed eyes from sea to shining sea. But it was easy to forget about the roadkill left behind after the Crimson Tide tank rolled down Victory Lane during title quest after title quest.
Stemming the Crimson Tide? Good luck
Clemson’s breath-stealing 35-31 victory can be considered a win for envious — jealous? — SEC fans.
For the moment, Alabama’s reign over college football has been placed on pause. Opportunity has been created for dreamers at Auburn and LSU, Tennessee, Ole Miss and elsewhere.
Sure, it won’t be easy to replicate Dabo Swinney’s formula for foiling the Crimson Tide. But before the confetti fell on the Tigers’ delirium, the trophy-toting Clemson coach gave Alabama rivals a possible blueprint for success.
First, Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts completed just 13 of 31 passes for 131 yards with 1 touchdown, and 68 of those yards came on a strike to tight end O.J. Howard late in the third quarter that gave Alabama a 24-14 lead. Hurts was hurting when trying to connect on deep passes late Monday.
The lesson: Force Hurts to beat you downfield until his touch improves.
Second, Alabama went an awful 2-for-15 on third down against Clemson’s crafty defense. The impact of the late switch from Lane Kiffin to Steve Sarkisian as the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator is debatable, but Alabama was toothless for much of the fourth quarter.
The lesson: The Crimson Tide’s offense can be stretched to the point of snapping.
Finally, it doesn’t hurt to have running back Bo Scarbrough, a bull in cleats, sidelined for a prolonged time. He left in the third quarter with a right leg injury after he totaled 93 yards and 2 touchdowns on 16 carries.
The lesson: Hope that Scarbrough’s stay in Tuscaloosa is short, or at least pray that he avoids the field for reasons behind his control.
RELATED: How serious was Scarbrough’s injury?
Falling Crimson Tide? Not so fast
However, the outlook isn’t all roses and daisies for those in the SEC who dream of toppling the Crimson Tide next season.
The SEC’s lack of depth this past fall revealed how much work must be done for the conference to showcase a consistent contender outside Tuscaloosa.
Tennessee disappointed again. Texas A&M fizzled after a brief burst. Florida flamed out after clinching the SEC East. LSU underachieved after a summer of huge hopes. Auburn had a memorable six-game run in the middle of the season, but War Eagle wilted by going 1-3 to close.
It’s possible that we could have the same, sad discussion at this time next year: It’s Alabama’s league, and everyone else is slipping on oil slicks within it. The Crimson Tide machine, loaded with tantalizing young talent, will be motivated to right the wrong that went down at Raymond James Stadium and reclaim its crown.
But that doesn’t mean Alabama’s agony can’t become rivals’ revelry this week.
Give them their time. Allow them to bask in the Crimson Tide’s no-good, very bad memory on a night that could have provided another marvelous moment for Alabama’s dynasty.
After all, the daunting task of stopping Saban’s storm will begin again soon.