Losing at home by one point against a team that’s the biggest road block in a highly-competitive division would be frustrating for any football team.
You can understand why James Franklin was as animated as he was following his team’s loss to Ohio State, considering it was essentially a carbon copy of the team’s 2017 matchup.
“I’m hurting for those guys in that locker room. I know how hard they’ve worked,” Franklin said after his team lost 27-26 on September 29. “The reality is that we’ve gone from an average football team to a good football team to a great football team. We have worked hard to do those things, but we are not an elite football team yet.”
Hindsight will always be 20/20, but Franklin was right. This team proved for the second year in a row that it isn’t elite yet.
Distinguishing the difference between an elite team and a great team is something that’s tough to do, mainly because the two terms are vague and relative. That said, it’s fair to say Alabama is the epitome of an elite football team (and that’s probably an understatement).
Alabama has won five national championships along with another five SEC titles since Nick Saban took over as head coach in 2007. Despite all that success, Alabama has only gone undefeated once in Saban’s 11 seasons in charge.
Elite teams lose games against high-quality opponents. It happens. What separates the elite teams from everybody else, however, is their ability to bounce back from a tough loss and win out — especially when they play in loaded divisions like the Big Ten East and SEC West.
One loss doesn’t ruin a team’s season, especially during the College Football Playoff era. A second loss, however, does. Losing to Ohio State by a combined two points isn’t what held the Nittany Lions back from being elite the last two seasons. Losing two very winnable games against Michigan State has.
Any hope Penn State had at a playoff spot has surely gone up in smoke following the dismal display against a Spartan team that failed to beat Northwestern at home the week prior. The loss ensured that another season that opened with so much promise and excitement would end in underwhelming fashion.
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