TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The fourth quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Monday night had the vibe of a Bourbon Street party for Crimson Tide fans. Leading LSU by two scores and a mountain of momentum, the Allstate BCS National Championship was comfortably in hand for Alabama. The victory parade was the only thing left to coordinate.
But buried under the echo of celebratory high-fives and muddled verses of "Rammer Jammer" was an important transition occurring on the field. The guard was changing, and Nick Saban wasn't done coaching his players. When the Tide incurred its first penalty of the game -- a run-of-the-mill offside call -- Saban looked disgusted.
The play revealed an important fact about a coach who has won two national championships in three seasons with the Tide: The man is always coaching for the next game, the next season. So while fans laughed off the five-yard gaffe, Saban used it as a learning tool for the players who will return to Tuscaloosa for another year under his tutelage.
If the Tide is to repeat as champions in 2012, learning moments like that will play a key role.
With an eye on the future, a handful of areas on the roster must improve, and a group of inexperienced players must learn quickly.