Earlier this week, Nick Saban suggested that his players were distracted by the NFL Draft before taking on Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, a game that Alabama lost 42-35.
Many took this as Saban making yet another excuse for yet another high-profile loss. Saban, however, claims that wasn’t his intention.
What do we make of this?
“I was not in the room when he said that part, so I didn’t know how much he explained when he first said it,” CBS College Football Today host Adam Zucker said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “But everyone’s got that problem, right? I mean, it’s not like he was playing Wilkes University in Division III and they’re not thinking about their pro prospects. Ohio State’s got guys thinking the same (thing). So it doesn’t really bother me that much. I think that truly this round of media day was a little low on controversy and fodder other than just some fun smack talk between (Steve) Spurrier and Butch Jones, Spurrier and (Bret) Bielema, Spurrier and everybody. So people tried to jump on anything and the fact that it’s Nick Saban saying it.
“But yeah, maybe guys got distracted for like 10 seconds a day that this is what NFL scouts said about you,” Zucker continued. “I don’t see that – especially when you’re going after a national championship – (having that big of an impact). I think the guys on Mississippi State who are on their way to the NFL and having to deal with Georgia Tech’s blocking schemes and criss-crosses and that option offense maybe didn’t want to get all in and put their knees in front of things when they’ve got a million dollars coming up in a month.”
Brian Jones, for one, does not understand how players could have been distracted by the draft or how they could have let the draft affect their play. After all, they were playing in a major bowl game with a shot at a national championship on the line. If anything, you would think Alabama players would be hyper-focused and would want to play their very best, as the Sugar Bowl was a prime NFL-scouting opportunity.
“Yeah, I thought that was really weird,” Zucker said. “I spoke to the Alabama players. Ryan Kelly, their center, said basically flat out, ‘We played not to lose. We were up early and we just payed not to lose.’ And Reggie Ragland came in and said there’s just this entitled mindset at Alabama and that’s what we have to change now.”
Jones was surprised Ragland admitted that. So was Zucker.
“I was pretty surprised, too, but Reggie said when he first got there, it seemed like winning was just automatic; they were on the conveyor belt to championships,” Zucker said. “Things have definitely changed. I don’t know what you think, but I think Auburn’s better than them right now – at least on paper – with who they have coming back and who they have coming in with this Jovon Robinson running back cat and Duke Williams coming back. I think Auburn has the edge now and they’re going to have them at home.”
Auburn hosts Alabama on Nov. 28 in a game that will almost assuredly have playoff implications.
“I think that’s going to be massive,” Zucker said. “We’ll see how things are different once late November rolls around.”