The best coach in college football admitted that he – and everyone else at Alabama – was proud of the team’s recent accomplishments. You know, two straight national titles and, if you want to deal in ancient history, three in the last four years.
But Nick Saban is not Nick Saban if he can’t find dark clouds hovering over the crystal football that goes to college football’s top team. So in looking back over the last two seasons, Saban said the following with a straight face:
“We learned that there’s five or six plays that sort of can define your season … the two-minute drive against LSU, not scoring on fourth-and-two against Texas A&M, Georgia blocking the field goal in the SEC Championship game and getting up 21-10.
“I mean, fundamentally, we didn’t execute in some of those circumstances,” Saban said.
Just what in the name of Bear Bryant was wrong with these guys!
Really, what can you do but laugh when Saban sounds like just another coach who went 6-6 on his way to a bowl game with a bad name? But this, too, is part of Saban’s famed “process,” part of why Alabama is unique.
“Their ability to come out every game and compete to the top notch, that’s what makes them different,” said South Carolina receiver Bruce Ellington.
He’s right. Every program loses vital players every year. In Bama’s case, many of them go on to make a living playing on Sundays. No one doubts that Saban has enough good players to replace those lost from the last national championship team. Finding talent and coaching up that talent is the easy part, believe it or not.
Quarterback A.J. McCarron last season produced the kind of results that a coach would design in a laboratory: nation’s-best 175.28 passing efficiency while throwing 30 touchdown passes with just three interceptions. And now he’s a senior, even more mature.
“We know everybody’s going to be targeting us,” McCarron said of the upcoming season.
Even better, from Saban’s view, McCarron refuses to embrace the media’s narrative.
“Coach Saban doesn’t say it’s a dynasty so I’m not going to say it’s a dynasty,” McCarron said. “That’s the mindset we have to take into it. We don’t need one word to describe what we’ve accomplished as a team and as a university as a whole.”
But for those of us who do want one word, dominance is another good choice. Look at the Associated Press preseason Top 10. Alabama is No. 1, but there are four other SEC teams – No. 5 Georgia, No. 6 South Carolina, No. 7 Texas A & M and No. 10 Florida. And LSU is sitting at No. 12.
In any other conference in America, with the exception of the Big Ten, where Urban Meyer’s No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes reside, any of these other SEC teams might be judged the favorite to win the league.
Thus, the best chance that some other team can come out of the SEC West, or topple mighty Bama in the SEC title game, would seem to be that very human frailty known as complacency. It’s the malady that keeps Saban from smiling very much and why he only allows himself all of 48 hours to enjoy a national championship.
In Saban’s world, FOCUS is the rock to complacency’s cut-you-down-to-size scissors.
No wonder offensive lineman Anthony Steen, who is a mere 6-3 and 309 pounds, said of his coach, “I’m scared to death of the guy. I don’t want the offense to mess up.”
Because one mess-up here, another less than perfectly executed play there, is all it might to take change how the coming season is defined in history.
On the other hand, make it three national titles in a row and the D-word is the only word to describe what Alabama and Saban have accomplished. Gotta be worth a grin and 72 hours of enjoyment, right, coach?
Don Wade’s column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News. Listen to Wade on “Middays with Greg & Eli” every Tuesday at noon on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM.