Undefeated seasons aren't always required to win college football's national championship, as evidenced by Alabama the last two years.
The difficulty of going undefeated, however, is a reality Alabama has experienced again. The Crimson Tide suffered their third November loss in as many seasons Saturday night, with the shocking 34-28 defeat at Auburn knocking them out of the race for the Southeastern Conference championship and likely the BCS title as well.
"It's hard to go 12 games straight without losing," Alabama right guard Anthony Steen said Saturday night, "especially playing Auburn, which had a bye week and was well-rested. It's just hard to do that, and it's why you see so many teams today with a one- or two-loss season. It happened to us tonight, and it didn't go how we planned."
The Crimson Tide lost to LSU in 2011 and to Texas A&M last year, but they moved right back up in the BCS championship chase as the result of undefeated teams from other conferences falling by the wayside. Alabama fell to No. 4 in Sunday night's BCS standings and will need Duke to upset Florida State in the ACC championship and Michigan State to upset Ohio State in the Big Ten championship in order to have a chance at a third straight BCS title.
Alabama coach Nick Saban sure sounded as if his title aspirations for this year's team are over.
"I told the team that I was proud of the way they played all season long and the way they've improved as a team," Saban said. "I'm very, very proud of our football team for winning 11 games. I still think we have one of the best teams in the country, but I don't think we played our best game.
"Everybody knew what was at stake for us today, and we didn't make the plays when we needed to make them. That responsibility starts with me."
Figuring the disappointment was going to be deep in the locker room -- "There were some guys in tears," defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan said -- Saban made sure to mention his pride in the 2013 Tide whenever there was an opportunity.
"I think our coaches did a great job this year with this team," Saban said. "We just didn't make the plays when we needed to make them. Give Auburn's players credit. They've had a great season. They played a great game, and they made plays when they needed to make them. That was the difference in the game.
"I'm very, very proud of this team and the improvement they made and the way they played and competed all year."
Should Florida State and Ohio State finish 1-2 in the final BCS standings next Sunday, the winner of Saturday's SEC championship between Missouri and Auburn would go to the Sugar Bowl. That would leave the Orange Bowl as the likely destination for Alabama, with Clemson a possible opponent.
Alabama will have days and weeks to move on from what transpired at Jordan-Hare Stadium, and only time will tell if that's a good thing.
"We just want to focus on whatever game is ahead of us and just go out there and play that next one," tight end Brian Vogler said.
Said quarterback AJ McCarron: "We've got a lot of time off, and we'll be ready."
Alabama played in the three most-watched college football games of the regular season, with the trip to Texas A&M being the most watched followed by games against Auburn and LSU. ... McCarron's 17 completions at Auburn give him 667 for his career, which tops the school mark of 665 set by John Parker Wilson. ... Linebacker C.J. Mosley has 313 career tackles after tallying 14 against Auburn, and he needs 14 more to tie the program record held by Wayne Davis (327 from 1983-86).
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.