AUBURN, Ala. — Saturday's 48-45 loss at Auburn will have a lingering effect for Alabama football players.
The objective now will be to erase it from their memories as thoroughly as possible, which is easier said than done. The Crimson Tide are expected to wind up in either the Cotton, Orange or Sugar Bowl, having ventured to all three within the past five seasons, but none of those desirable destinations are part of this season's College Football Playoff.
"We have a lot of fight, and we'll bounce back," quarterback Mac Jones said Saturday night. "We'll practice hard and learn from this, and I think it will be good for us in that matter. We'll see what we're made of when we play that bowl game."
Alabama has been a part of the four-team field in the playoff's first five seasons of existence, but the Iron Bowl loss dropped the Tide to 10-2 overall and 6-2 in Southeastern Conference play. Amazingly, the 10-2 mark is their worst since 2010, when they lost at South Carolina, at LSU and to eventual national champion Auburn during a 9-3 regular season.
The Tide were invited that year to the Citrus Bowl, where they dismantled Michigan State 49-7.
Alabama bounced back to win national titles in 2011 and 2012, but the "Kick Six" loss at Auburn in 2013 resulted in Gus Malzahn's Tigers and Florida State vying in the final BCS title game. The Tide, meanwhile, failed to recover from that emotional setback, falling 45-31 to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
In the 2008 season, Alabama squandered a chance to play for the BCS title with a 31-20 loss to Florida in the SEC championship game. The Tide journeyed to the Sugar Bowl as favorites against Utah, fell behind 21-0 and lost 31-17.
"If you like competing, then the next game won't be difficult as far as being motivated," senior safety Jared Mayden said. "You're going to go out there and try to play your best no matter who we play. That's what I have on my mind, and that's what everybody should have on their minds. If you're thinking about something else, then you shouldn't play in the game.
"The Alabama standard is to go out to the field to dominate and compete, and if you don't want to do that, then you shouldn't step out on the field."
The Tide were without the services of junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (dislocated hip) at Auburn and haven't had junior inside linebacker Dylan Moses (knee) all season, but will other talented players who are fine from a health standpoint skip the bowl game in order to begin preparations for the NFL? This has been a growing trend for SEC players who aren't in the playoff, with former LSU running back Leonard Fournette, former Auburn cornerback Carlton Davis and former Georgia corner Deandre Baker among the more notable names to bypass a bowl.
Running back Najee Harris, receivers Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and DeVonta Smith, offensive tackles Alex Leatherwood and Jedrick Wills, outside linebackers Anfernee Jennings and Terrell Lewis, and safety Xavier McKinney are among those potentially facing decisions about whether they've already played their last game under coach Nick Saban.
Alabama dropped from fifth to ninth in Sunday's Associated Press poll, ending its streak of 68 consecutive polls ranked among the top five, while Auburn moved up from 16th to 11th. Both teams will learn their postseason locales next Sunday.