Anecdotally, it seems that when there are high-profile, highly anticipated matchups featuring the Crimson Tide and a ranked opponent, that ‘Bama’s victim more often than not keeps losing. And, that spiral continues sometimes into the next season.
To see if there is some modicum of truth to our lying eyes, I went back to 2007 and selected 1. bowl opponents, 2. traditional rivals, 3. ranked opponents, and 4. OOC Power 5 teams. From there, I looked to the four games following a loss to the Tide, including into the next season, where appropriate.
Here’s what I found over the past decade in Nick Saban’s tenure:
No. 23 Arkansas lost to Alabama in a wild shootout. The Hogs would lose two of the next four games, including the next week at home to Kentucky. YES
No. 20 Tennessee was shellacked by Alabama 41-17 in Bryant-Denny, but rebounded down the stretch, finishing 10-4 and winning the SEC East.
Colorado (Independence Bowl): Despite trying to mount a furious comeback, the 7-5 Buffs dropped a 30-24 decision. The 2008 Buffaloes then proceeded to lose three of their next four games, including to FCS Eastern Washington at home. This would start the death spiral of Hawkins’ tenure in Colorado.
No. 9 Clemson: After being manhandled by Alabama, the Tigers got to the heart of a super soft out of conference slate. Then, when facing its first bowl-eligible team, the Maryland Terrapins, the Tigers lost.
No. 3 Georgia: The infamous blackout game did not seem to leave many lingering effects, as the Dawgs would win two of its next three against ranked teams, losing only to No 11 Florida in Jacksonville.
Tennessee: Nick Saban probably did get Phil Fulmer fired here. After its second loss in a row, and three of four to Alabama overall, the Vols would drop back to back games against a .500 South Carolina team and then an unranked, four-win Wyoming team at home.
No. 15 LSU: The Tigers lost a classic double OT game in Baton Rouge, and then just kept losing. First, they were listless in a 40-31 game against Troy and dropped their final two to unranked Ole Miss and Arkansas, the latter would only win two conference games that season.
Auburn: Nick Saban put to boot to Tuberville’s throat in a vicious 36-0 beatdown. The Tigers would change coaching staffs thereafter, and start off 2009 6-0.
No. 7 Virginia Tech played a great one against Alabama and lost by just five points. It didn’t let Beamer get them down: the Hokies would go 10-3 and win the ACC Atlantic, finishing No. 11 in the country.
No. 20 Ole Miss. Houston Nutt’s best Rebels squad had a lot to play for. But, after a 33-20 Alabama win, the Rebs dropped the egg bowl to a terrible Mississippi State squad. Still, WAOM did have a nice road win over No. 10 LSU in the same four-game span.
No. 24 South Carolina. Perhaps the most physical team of Spurrier’s tenure at USC, the Tide gave the game (and Heisman) to Mark Ingram in the 4th quarter. This was a processing to be sure, as the ‘Cocks would lose three of its next four games, and they weren’t even particularly competitive
No. 10 LSU: There may be something to this Les Miles hangover. After a physical 24-15 loss in Tuscaloosa, the Tigers looked terrible over their next four, losing two, needing OT to beat Arkansas, and a pitiful 24-16 win over La. Tech.
Tennessee: Hats off to Lane Kiffin. After a devastating Rocky Block loss, the Vols went to Brice-Williams and scored an upset over the ranked USC Gamecocks. They would finish 4-1 down the stretch and win a bowl game.
No. 1 Florida: The rematch everyone wanted was a blowout in the Georgia Dome. Urban Meyer proceeded to take his frustrations out on No. 3 Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl, and then the Gator malaise would begin to show in 2010.
No. 1 Texas: The Longhorns’ last triumphal ride with glory under Mack Brown saw a physical Alabama team injury Colt McCoy and then ride its running game to victory. This game killed not only the ‘Horns season, but that program. In 2010, the Longhorns would start quick against an easy OOC slate, before getting demolished by UCLA. After that loss, the Horns kept losing, dropping 6 of eight ballgames the rest of the way.
So far, a trend does seem to be emerging. It looks like Alabama can affect a team or give it a hangover for a few more games thereafter, but, that seems to be mitigated by coaching. Frank Beamer, Houston Nutt, Mark Richt, Gene Chizik, Lane Kiffin, and (by and large) Phil Fulmer, were able to shake off a loss to Alabama. However, Tommy West, Les Miles, Steve Spurrier, and Urban Meyer among others did not — at least in this early data set.
We’ll have part two next week, but, as an aside, this is in no way or form an inferential data analysis: Every last one of my seven statistics professors would bludgeon me to death if I even suggested as much. And, yes, there are arbitrary data points and look-back periods, I know. But, the point here isn’t to do anything empirical, rather it is to just use our eyeballs and recap.