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Alabama’s 20-19 win over unranked Texas was its closest point differential when favored by 20 points or more since losing to 25-point underdog Louisiana-Monroe, 21-14, on Nov. 17, 2007, at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
That was Nick Saban’s first season at Alabama and remains his most embarrassing loss. In his first season as LSU’s coach in 2000, he lost to 17-point underdog Alabama-Birmingham, 13-10, but Saban was only a $1.2 million-a-year coach that night after leaving Michigan State, where his best season was only 9-2.
The loss to Louisiana-Monroe, called ULM after formerly known as Northeast Louisiana, applied the red face much worse as Saban was a household word and making $4 million a year as the highest paid college coach in the nation. He had left the Miami Dolphins a year after winning the national championship at LSU in the 2003 season. And the ULM coach who beat Saban that day – Charlie Weatherbie – was the lowest paid college coach in the coutnry at $130,000.
And guess what team No. 2 Alabama (2-0) plays this week after dropping from No. 1 with the fortunate win at Texas? Why, ULM again at 4 p.m. eastern Saturday on the SEC Network in Bryant-Denny. The Crimson Tide, which has won six national championships under Saban since that loss to ULM, have virtually doubled their favorite status to a 49.5-point pick by Draft Kings.
“We certainly have respect for these guys,” Saban said Monday of ULM. “I don’t forget things, so I remember when these guys beat us.”
Two days after the loss, Saban made it even worse in one of the worse spin efforts of all time.
“Changes in history usually occur after some kind of catastrophic event,” Saban said. “It may be 9/11, which changed the spirit of America relative to a catastrophic event. Pearl Harbor got us ready for World War II, and that was a catastrophic event. And I don’t think anyone in this room would have bet that we could lose back-to-back games to Mississippi State or ULM, no disrespect to either one of those teams.”
Yes, in many ways 9/11 and Pearl Harbor woke America up and helped motivate the country for successful wars. Alabama rebounded from the ULM loss to become a national champion just two years later and win five more national tiles through 2020. That’s the point Saban was trying to make – his program would have to face the worst before becoming great.
But more than 2,900 people died from the 9/11 attacks and more than 2,400 during the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Saban rarely says something senseless, but that was one of them. And that quote will live in infamy.
“What historical event will he reference when Alabama loses a sixth game to Auburn? The Holocaust?” columnist Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News wrote at the time. And Alabama did lose to Auburn that season to finish 6-6. Alabama has not lost more than two games in a season since, and that happened just once in 2010 when it went 10-3.
This is actually the second time Alabama will play ULM since that infamous day in 2007. The Tide beat the War Hawks, 34-0, on Sept. 26, 2015, but Saban still remembers Nov. 17, 2007, much more.
“I know that our players won’t remember that because they were probably 5 or 6 years old when that happened,” he said. “But it kind of is what it is.”
And Saban is making damn sure no overconfidence seeps into his team before the ULM game. Consider his answer to this question by a reporter Wednesday night – an answer he used to speak to his players:
“How hard is it to gauge offensive growth when the quality of opponent can vary from Utah State, Texas and now ULM this week?”
“Well, that’s your opinion on quality of opponent,” Saban answered. “It’s not mine. I respect all the people that we play, and I respect winning and what you have to do to win.”
TEXAS WAS SEC LOUD FOR ALABAMA
Alabama junior outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr. has played at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium, LSU’s Tiger Stadium and The Swamp at Florida, but he ranked Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin up there with anything in the SEC.
“Since I’ve been here, this is probably the loudest environment I’ve played in,” he said after the 20-19 win at Texas Saturday. “I just played in probably the hardest game I’ve played in since I’ve been in college football. Their fans were super loud. They had a lot of energy. The atmosphere was crazy.”
Anderson was also out of sorts throughout the game, drawing two offside penalties.
“Just being not locked in,” he said. “Trying to anticipate too much”
He still made five tackles with a sack and another stop for a loss.
LSU QB JAYDEN DANIELS NO. 1 IN SEC IN EFFICIENCY
Arizona State transfer quarterback Jayden Daniels seems to be adjusting well to his new surroundings at LSU. He leads the SEC in passing efficiency and is No. 15 in the nation with a 179.0 rating on 35-of-45 passing for 346 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions.
Daniels will meet his match Saturday when the Tigers (1-1) host Mississippi State (2-0) at 6 p.m. Saturday on ESPN. State quarterback Will Rogers leads the SEC and is third in the nation in passing yards a game at 381.5. He is No. 4 in the SEC in efficiency and No. 21 overall at 170.2 on 77-of-98 passing for 783 yards and nine touchdowns against two interceptons.
Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young of Alabama is not off to a great start statistically. He is ninth in the SEC and 53rd nationally in efficiency at 147.9 on 45-of-67 passing for 408 yards and six touchdowns.
SATURDAY PREDICTIONS (Draft Kings Spreads if available. Eastern times.)
Abilene Christian (2-0) at Missouri (1-1, 24.5-point favorite), Noon, SEC Network +, ESPN + … Missouri 47, Abilene Christian 13.
Youngstown State (2-0) at No. 9 Kentucky (2-0, 25.5-point favorite), Noon, SEC Network … Kentucky 31, Youngstown State 6.
No. 1 Georgia (2-0, 24-point favorite) at South Carolina (1-1), Noon, ESPN … Georgia 48, South Carolina 10.
No. 22 Penn State (2-0, 3-point favorite) at Auburn (2-0), 3:30 p.m., CBS … Auburn 20, Penn State 17.
No. 20 Ole Miss (2-0, 16.5-point favorite) at Georgia Tech (1-1), 3:30 p.m., ABC … Ole Miss 27, Georgia Tech 14.
Vanderbilt (2-1) at Northern Illinois (1-1, 3-point favorite), 3:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network … Vanderbilt 24, Northern Illinois 21.
Louisiana-Monroe (1-1) at No. 2 Alabama (2-0, 49.5-point favorite), 4 p.m., SEC Network … Alabama 53, Louisiana-Monroe 7.
Mississippi State (2-0, 2.5-point favorite) at LSU (1-1), 6 p.m., ESPN … Mississippi State 27, LSU 21.
Missouri State (2-0) at No. 10 Arkansas (2-0, 28.5-point favorite), 7 p.m., SEC Network +, ESPN + … Arkansas 48, Missouri State 10.
Akron (1-1) at No. 15 Tennessee (2-0, 47.5-point favorite), 7 p.m., SEC Network +, ESPN + … Tennessee 55, Akron 6.
South Florida (1-1) at No. 18 Florida (1-1, 24.5-point favorite), 7:30 p.m., SEC Network … Florida 27, South Florida 17.
No. 13 Miami (2-0) at No. 24 Texas A&M (1-1, 5-point favorite), 9 p.m., ESPN … Miami 31, Texas A&M 17.
1.Georgia (2-0). 2. Alabama (2-0). 3. Kentucky (2-0, 1-0 SEC). 4. Arkansas (2-0, 1-0 SEC). 5. Florida (1-1, 0-1). 6. Tennessee (2-0). 7. Mississippi State (2-0). 8. Ole Miss (2-0). 9. Auburn (2-0). 10. LSU (1-1). 11. Texas A&M (1-1). 12. Missouri (1-1). 13. South Carolina (1-1). 14. Vanderbilt (2-1).
STATS OF THE WEEK
Texas A&M had just eight possessions in its 17-14 loss to Appalachian State, which possessed the ball for 42 minutes to 18 by the Aggies. In the Mountaineers’ game-winning field goal drive in the fourth quarter, they drove 63 yards in 18 plays over nine minutes and 15 seconds.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
-Texas coach Steve Sarkisian after losing, 20-19, to Alabama.