Well, Alabama's been here before. Smarting from a rare loss. Doing a little soul-searching. A little head-scratching. Maybe a little reassessing. A little anguishing over the preventable mistakes that caused the loss. Wondering what lies ahead now with that precious zero forever wiped away this season from that right column of its record.
Alabama doesn't lose often under Nick Saban. At least not since he got things rolling in Tuscaloosa in year two — 2008. Since then Alabama's record is 86-12. The losses have been scarce. And difficult to forget. Each one almost a story all its own.
Often the entire direction of the program comes under question following a setback on the field. Game calls are questioned. Team weaknesses scrutinized and bemoaned. Sometimes Saban himself comes under fire. Almost always there's some talking media head — right on the heels of the defeat — proclaiming the end. The end of the Alabama Dynasty. The end of Alabama's post-Bear Bryant Golden Age. The end of a Saban-directed Alabama program being a college football superpower.
Related: 6 One-Loss Teams That Could Still Make the CFB Playoff
Yeah, it's kind of a big deal when Alabama loses a football game.
Alabama Following Regular-Season Defeats Last Seven Years
Florida, 31-20 (SEC CG)
L, Utah, 31-17 (Sugar Bowl)
South Carolina, 35-21
W, Ole Miss, 23-10
W, Mississippi State, 30-10
W, Michigan State, 49-7 (Capital One Bowl)
W, Mississippi State, 24-7
Went on to win national title
Texas A&M, 29-24
W, Western Carolina, 49-0
Went on to win national title
L, Oklahoma, 45-31 (Sugar Bowl)
Ole Miss, 23-17
W, Arkansas, 14-13
Next L was in CFB Playoff vs. Ohio State
Ole Miss, 43-37
So now comes Defeat No. 12 for Alabama since 2008. Last Saturday's 43-37 loss to Ole Miss. And, with this one, the conversation points surrounding it are seemingly endless. The turnovers — five to be exact. The seemingly indecision of the Bama coaches on who should start at quarterback. The deficiencies of Alabama's vertical passing game. The fluky Ole Miss touchdown. The fight in the Bama players to nearly pull out the most improbable of wins despite so much going wrong in the game. And the list goes on.
There's lots of talk. And lots of comparing.
Yeah, it's kind of hard not to look back one season and see how things eventually played out then and how things could conceivably play out now this season. The same Magnolia State team beat Alabama, and it was right around the same point of the season the past two years — a little earlier this year. Alabama fell from No. 3 to No. 7 in the AP poll last year after losing to Ole Miss. The Crimson Tide fell from No. 2 to No. 12 after losing to the Rebels this year.
Saban, though, sees some telling differences between last year's 23-17 loss and Saturday's 43-37 loss.
"I thought the game last year we lost completely different than the way we lost this game," the Alabama head coach said Monday. "We had energy (Saturday). We had almost fanatic energy, but we didn't channel it in the right direction. We kept coming back in the game, but we also shot ourselves in the foot so many times that it made it difficult to overcome.
"Last year, we got ahead in the game and kind of got relief syndrome or something where they got the momentum in the game, and we could never get it back. That never really happened (Saturday). We just came up short this time."
Following last year's loss to Ole Miss, Alabama's focus in trying to fix things seemed to have more to do with mindset, emotion and energy. After this year's loss to Ole Miss, it appears the focus in fixing things has more to do with execution — or the lack thereof. Alabama currently ranks No. 23 nationally in total offense, No. 37 in total defense. And, oh yeah, No. 91 in turnover margin. Not exactly championship-caliber numbers.
"It would be easy to sit here and say the turnovers were the issue, but we need to have better fundamental execution of what we're doing," Saban said. "Too many negative plays on offense. Too many big plays on defense. Too many miscues on special teams in terms of who's blocking who.
"I think our players had tremendous energy in this game, but we have to learn to channel our energy and focus into the right places so that we get better execution on a more consistent basis. And that starts with me. That starts with us as coaches in terms of doing a better job during the course of the week in preparing guys to be able to go out there and execute better."
After falling to Ole Miss last season, Alabama went on the road the following week, rekindled the fire within and earned a hard-fought 14-13 win over Arkansas. That was the first of eight consecutive wins Alabama reeled off — good enough to earn that one-loss Tide team not just a spot in the College Football Playoff but the No. 1 seed. Of course, Alabama was a one-and-done in the postseason despite being the top seed.
What about this year after losing to Ole Miss? Alabama has a home date with Louisiana-Monroe this Saturday. Then comes a tough road test at No. 8 Georgia the following week. With more tough tests to follow. Can this year's Tide team do what last year's team did following disappointment and go on a similar run?
Saban's not about to predict anything at this point.
"Just depends on how they respond to the loss," he said of his players. "That's all I can tell you."
— Written by Erik Stinnett, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Stinnett is an experienced college football beat writer who has been covering Alabama since 2009.