“Complacency is not an option for us no more,” senior tight end Michael Williams said.
If the Crimson Tide needed any extra motivation to avoid another letdown season after winning a national championship, it came from SEC media Thursday.
Voters among the record 1,100-plus writers and broadcasters who attended SEC Media Days this week voted LSU as the clear favorite to repeat as league champion this year, giving the Tigers 129 first-place votes.
Defending national champion Alabama, which beat LSU 21-0 in last season’s Bowl Championship Series final, was a distant second in the balloting with 65 votes.
LSU also led the way on the preseason All-SEC team with seven selections to Alabama’s five.
Alabama did lose 13 starters from the 2011 team, which suffered its only loss against LSU in the regular season but avenged it in the BCS final. The losses include four first-round NFL draft picks, led by running back Trent Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick.
Still, Alabama is the defending national champion and has won two of the past three national titles. Its recruiting classes have consistently ranked among the nation’s best in Nick Saban’s five-plus years as head coach.
And Crimson Tide players needed no extra motivation. They have spent this offseason hearing reminders about 2010.
Alabama was the defending national champion that season and spent the first six weeks atop the polls. The Tide lost three regular-season games, falling to eventual national champion Auburn, SEC East champion South Carolina and LSU.
“Losing three games is an embarrassment,” Williams said. “That’s not something that we live by and I don’t think we’ll ever live by again.”
Then again, we have heard this before. Saban made “no complacency” a theme in 2010.
Thing was, the was Alabama’s first go-around as national champion since 1992. This time, many of Alabama’s players were around for a national title in 2009 and suffered through 2010.
“I think the difference was, the first time … we just didn’t buy into it,” senior center Barrett Jones said. “This year, it’s started with the older guys talking to the younger guys. It’s not going to sneak up on us this year.”
If nothing else, Saban seems to get the impression that his sixth Alabama team, well, gets the impression.
“We have had a really good offseason with our team,” he said. “This team seems to be less affected by the previous year, what has happened in the previous year.
“They’re not really the 2010 team. They’re not really the 2011 team. There’s a lot of players on this team that this is the opportunity for them and their season. … This team seems to be very much committed to creating an identity for themselves.”
Saban acknowledges that it’s human nature to grow complacent. The Tide didn’t just win its second national title in three years, after all. It changed college football.
After losing to LSU last season, Alabama played its way into an unprecedented rematch in the national-title game. The rematch of two SEC teams --- and Alabama’s dominant showing the second time around --- finally gave college football’s power brokers the push they needed to adopt a four-team playoff format, starting in 2014.
That’s quite an identity --- for the 2011 Crimson Tide.
“It’s really, really difficult in college football to carry momentum from one season to the next,” Saban said. “You lose 25 percent of your team … and the new 25 percent that you bring to your team, really they don’t have knowledge and experience. They haven’t played. They’re young players. Maybe very talented players, but they’re very young players.
“So you have to create your own identity by what you do. You have to create your own momentum by what you do. Everybody has a new role. We have new people who have new opportunities. This is their opportunity to make this their team.”
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.