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Alabama Won SEC West, But Still Far From a Championship-Level Team

The Crimson Tide offense was too much for Arkansas, but Alabama has yet to show it has what it takes to win another title.

It looked like a defining moment, the kind to indicate that this University of Alabama football team had turned a corner. 

Nope. Not quite. 

The 2021 Crimson Tide is still on the raw side. 

Specifically, on the first play of the second quarter, Alabama scored its first touchdown Saturday in impressive fashion. An Arkansas punt had pinned the Crimson Tide back on its 2-yard line, when the offense went to work with a 3-0 lead. 

It turned to veteran wide receiver John Metchie III. A 25-yard catch helped Alabama get out of the hole of being deep in its own zone. A swing pass on the next play got it across midfield. 

Sophomore quarterback Bryce Young then looked to him again for a 20-yard touchdown to cap the nine-play, 98-yard drive.

When Metchie got up he seemed to send a message. Instead of doing a pretty pose, he flexed.

Only it didn't last and Alabama closed out its home schedule the same way it began, with everyone wondering if this team has what they used to call "The Right Stuff."

If Alabama fans know anything, it's what a championship team looks like. They saw one last year, probably the best Nick Saban's ever had. That was on top of all the championships over the previous decade, while witnessing the most successful dynasty in college football history. 

Alabama has amazingly been in five of the last six title games. No one knows better than the coach that the difference between the championships, and non-title teams is slight. 

This team has yet to look like one, and is running out of time to do so. 

Saban knows it, too. 

"There's a lot of good things, and then there's a lot of things that we obviously need to fix, most of which we can fix," he said during his postgame press conference. "But I think the players have to be dedicated and determined to try and get it right so can play better in the future."

The question with Alabama this whole season has been the same, would the reigning champions eventually be good enough to do it again. 

The keys have not been with the talent or coaching. Even with all the turnover those two parts of the equation have been about as solid as Alabama's facilities. 

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Instead, could this collective group grow into its potential? 

Would it do the little things throughout the season that will eventually pay off at the end? 

Did it have the heart to overcome adversity and its limitations to still be champions?

Despite Alabama's offensive proficiency, and Young's very real Heisman Trophy bid, no one should say yes to any of those yet. 

Playing three straight ranked opponents on subsequent weeks as Alabama is now doing, and winning them all is one of the most difficult things a team can do in college football. 

"Playing in the West was very difficult," Saban said. 

Specific to this stretch, Alabama's faced the physical/hot team in Arkansas (which played hard and gave it everything it had) and survived. Next up is the biggest rival, at Auburn, and then the top team in the nation as Alabama clinched a spot against No. 1 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. 

Saban calling out the players this past week wasn't a good sign. Neither was seeing Saturday's game come down to an onside kick.

Championship teams don't continually get fooled by fakes on special teams. 

They don't fumble near the end zone. 

They put good teams away when they have the chance, and don't let them hang around.

They finish. 

"We're a unit," linebacker Henry To'oTo'o said about the team's growth. "We're a unit. We all have the 'A' on our chest.

"We harp on it every single day at practice, we harp on it every Saturday. When something bad happens on offense, we have to tap ourselves and make sure that your heads are held high. I think we do a great job of that as a team because we're going to need it."

Alabama survived 42-35, and give Arkansas a lot of credit. But there's still something missing, or at least still developing with this group. 

It had better find it, and quickly, because right now all we conclude is that this Crimson Tide team just doesn't want it bad enough. 

Christopher Walsh's column regularly appears on BamaCentral.