Alabama as an underdog? How the Crimson Tide is establishing a new identity


Wide receiver Jameson Williams and running back Brian Robinson Jr. take a selfie together after the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 31.

Austin Hannon, Staff Reporter

Every sport has its blue bloods. In college football, the Alabama Crimson Tide is on that list.

The Crimson Tide’s storied past includes 18 National Championships. Unlike some of the other historically powerful teams, Alabama is enjoying that success in the present.

Since head coach Nick Saban’s arrival in 2007, the Crimson Tide are 183-24 and have won six national championships, eight SEC championships, and four Heisman trophies.

If that’s not enough, Alabama has been No. 1 for at least a week every season since 2008. That’s completely uncharted territory for any team in any sport, ever.

The Alabama reign hasn’t stopped at the college level. Saban has produced 106 NFL draft picks, including 39 in the first round over his tenure.

So what’s this noise about Alabama being an underdog? The team obviously has the most talent and the best coaching in the country, right?

Well, to the Vegas oddsmakers, and more importantly the players donning the crimson and white, this was not necessarily Alabama’s title to win all along.

It’s not often that there is a plus symbol next to Alabama’s name on the sportsbook, but now for the second time this season, that is the case.

After finishing with an 11-1 record in the regular season, including a loss to then-unranked Texas A&M and a four-overtime win over 6-7 Auburn, many people counted the Crimson Tide out. Before its game in the SEC Championship against unanimous No. 1 Georgia, the country poked fun at Alabama, asserting that the Crimson Tide don’t even deserve to play on the same field as the mighty Bulldogs.

“I see no path of victory for Alabama. It’s almost impossible,” The Athletic’s Ari Wasserman said.

On Twitter, people laughed about how badly Georgia was going to beat Alabama.

Until they didn’t.

The Crimson Tide thrashed the Bulldogs to the tune of 421 passing yards from Heisman-winning quarterback Bryce Young. The Alabama defense forced Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett into several mistakes. For the seventh straight time dating back to 2008, the Crimson Tide triumphed over the Bulldogs.

Following a dominant win over No. 4 Cincinnati in the College Football Playoff semifinal, Alabama will face Georgia again.

Once again, the Crimson Tide won’t need to create the underdog spirit in their heads because the third-ranked Bulldogs are favored again, this time by three points.

Leading the movement is fifth-year running back Brian Robinson Jr., who is an underdog in his own right, waiting more than four years to get his shot at the starting role.

“We sometimes feel like an underdog going into every game,” Robinson said. “We come into every game with that mentality. We always feel like the underdog, even when we’re expected to win. I feel we’ll be motivated. We’ll come out with the underdog mentality and be ready to play.”

The Crimson Tide have been underdogs just three times since 2009: the 2009 SEC Championship against Tim Tebow and the Gators, a 2015 game in Athens against Georgia, and the SEC Championship just weeks ago. Alabama won those games by a combined 64 points.

Time will tell if this underdog Alabama team can complete its journey of being back-to-back national champions. The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs meet in the eighth College Football Playoff National Championship inside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. Kickoff is set for Monday, Jan. 10, at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN.