Each game is its own cosmos, the stars circulating in different directions depending upon the course of each play. But it’s hard to imagine how Alabama could ever have lost to Michigan State. Alabama was noticeably bigger, faster and meaner. Michigan State’s supposed stars looked like Conference USA cast-offs. Alabama, finally healthy after a month off, looked like the miniature NFL team pundits were expecting to see when the 2010 season began.
So where was this Alabama team hiding? On the training table, mostly. Alabama, in 2010, had 13 starters either miss games or significant parts of games due to injury. On offense, they were Mark Ingram, Greg McElroy, Trent Richardson, Julio Jones, Barrett Jones, William Vlachos and D.J. Fluker; on defense, the walking wounded included Marcell Dareus, Courtney Upshaw, Kerry Murphy, Nico Johnson, Chris Jordan and Mark Barron. In addition, starting cornerback DeMarcus Milliner began the season recovering from a high ankle sprain, and fellow corner Dre Kirkpatrick fought through several maladies. These numbers don’t count role players such as Eddie Lacy, Demetrius Goode and Jonathan Atchison. Does anyone think this might have had some effect on the Crimson Tide’s chances at repeating as national champs?
"I believe we came out and played one of the best games we've played since I've been in a crimson jersey here," said Dial, a fifth-year senior.
"It was unbelievable. That's a great football team we played. We really did just go out there and physically dominate and impose our will. That was Alabama football."
The 2010 might go down as a disappointment for some Alabama fans, but much of this Tide team could be back next season and another preseason No. 1 ranking is a definite possibility.
"There were just four of five plays in this season relative to what this team could've accomplished," Saban said. "And I think the maturity will help this team in the future. I think the leadership that will come from the lessons learned this season will be beneficial to this team in the future."
So this is how Michigan State’s era of football dominance within its state borders ends, with a New Year’s Day hangover at a crummy stadium placed in a central Florida ghetto, a headache that will linger for years to come and alter the balance of power in Michigan college football once again.