Alabama secures bid in SEC title game vs. Florida, as Nick Saban’s team ‘keeps on keeping on’

No. 1 Alabama won the SEC West and clinched a spot in the conference championship game by beating LSU 55-17 on Saturday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Alabama will play SEC East champ No. 6 Florida in Atlanta on Dec. 19.

After the win on Saturday night, Alabama coach Nick Saban said he was proud of the players for winning a 10th division title in 14 seasons.

“Now we gotta talk about how we want to finish the season and continue to improve and get better,” Saban said.

The 38-point victory represented the largest home loss by a defending national champion in the AP poll era (since 1936).

But even such a lopsided win didn’t come without its own set of challenges.

The electricity went out at Alabama’s team hotel a half-hour before the pregame meal and coaches and players were forced to eat in the dark.

“Stuff happens,” Saban said, “and everybody keeps on keeping on.”

What’s more, four Alabama coaches were sidelined by COVID-19 protocols, including wide receivers coach Holmon Wiggins and three defensive assistants.

Saban himself wasn’t allowed to be a part of team activities until he cleared COVID-19 protocols on Friday. The 69-year-old tested positive for the virus on Nov. 24 and isolated for 10 days before traveling with the team.

“When you have good culture on your team and you’ve established that culture with your team, they can adapt and adjust to things that don’t go exactly like you expect them to,” Saban said.

But what happened went almost exactly according to plan for Alabama (9-0) as it jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back.

LSU coach Ed Orgeron grew visibly frustrated on the sideline as the Tigers fell to 3-5, and at one point threw off his headset and screamed at several of his assistants.

“Obviously it was frustrating seeing a guy get 200 yards in one half,” Orgeron said of the incident, referring to Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith, who finished with eight catches for 231 yards and three touchdowns.

Players on both sides vented their frustrations as Alabama got payback for last season’s loss to LSU in Tuscaloosa in which former Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow was carried off the field.

“It was most definitely chippy,” Smith said.

Crimson Tide linebacker Dylan Moses agreed.

“We all remembered what happened last year, but we wanted to come out and do our job,” he said.

Alabama is scheduled to play at Arkansas next Saturday to close out the regular season.

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