TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — No. 2 Alabama approaches the dreaded month of November on the brink of taming the normally wild SEC West.
A two-game lead over LSU with three Southeastern Conference games to play. What could happen?
A Crimson Tide team that has lost nine consecutive November games, including a stunner to Louisiana-Monroe last season, doesn’t really have to wonder.
No wonder Tide players aren’t any more eager to talk publicly about controlling the Western Division than they have been about the national title chase over the past few weeks.
They’re taking that cue from coach Nick Saban and talking about doing “the little things” instead of expounding on the big goals.
“The wins are going to come if we do it right,” cornerback Javier Arenas said Monday. “If we sit and focus on what you just talked about, then we’re going to lose.”
Still, Alabama (8-0, 5-0) became the only SEC West team with fewer than two losses with LSU’s defeat to Georgia that ended not long before the Tide kicked off at Tennessee.
“I didn’t know they lost, I promise,” Arenas insisted.
Alabama’s schedule doesn’t appear especially daunting in terms of claiming the West title. First, Arkansas State visits in the final nonconference game Saturday, and then comes a trip to No. 15 LSU with a chance to lock the division title down. After that, Mississippi State and Auburn — a combined 3-6 in the SEC — visit Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Stranger things have happened in the West, though. Like LSU losing 50-48 to Arkansas in triple-overtime to end last year’s regular season, but still moving on to the SEC title game with two losses and eventually winning the national championship.
Alabama still has to survive November. The Tide hasn’t won a game in that month since beating Mississippi State on Nov. 5, 2005.
That includes four straight defeats to end the regular season last year. This team has shown few signs that such stumbles are imminent coming off a 29-9 win at Tennessee, which ended a series of games with second-half lapses.
“We’ve struggled a lot the past few Novembers,” left guard Mike Johnson said. “The guys who have been here in the past and say, ‘Hey, we need to keep doing the things we’ve been doing to win.”’
“Once you’ve been there before, you try not to go back to the same place.”
Last season, Alabama was 6-2 and coming off a 41-17 win over Tennessee before running into a brick wall and failing to win again.
The two previous years also ended with losses to SEC West rivals LSU and Auburn.
“Last year we were having a great season,” safety Rashad Johnson said. “It’s very frustrating. For the guys that have been here, which is most of us, we know what type of ball club we have this year and the maturity we have to go into this last part of the season and continue to win.”
The Tennessee win did give Alabama some more style points for the BCS standings after beating Kentucky and Mississippi by a combined seven points. Florida just routed the Wildcats 65-3, by contrast.
Arenas said he only ponders that concern during Saban’s 24-hour limit for thinking about the previous game.
“Within the 24-hour rule, I might linger upon it for a brief second,” Arenas said. “That’s too much thinking. That will take care of itself. It’s something I try to avoid personally. It’s too much stress.”