During my freshman year, after the Crimson Tide had won its second national championship in three years, my friends and I would joke about how great it would be if Alabama won a national championship every year we were at college. At the time it was just spirited and wishful optimism; no team has ever won three national championships in a row, let alone four. Plus, 2012’s team was supposed to be similar to 2010’s unit, where after losing a majority of starters to graduation and the draft, the Tide would suffer a slight down year due to inexperience before rising back up to dominant form the next year.
And yet, even with an unfavorable schedule and losing 11 starters on offense and defense, Alabama managed to pull it off, winning its third title in four years. So now a year later as a sophomore, my friends and I are still talking about how it great it would be if Alabama won every year we were here. But we are no longer joking: We truly believe it could happen.
It is kind of hard to fully appreciate what Alabama has accomplished over the last four years. The last time a team had won three national championships in four years was Nebraska from 1994-1997, and even this was before the BCS era so the Cornhuskers didn’t have to play fellow undefeated powerhouses Penn State in ‘94 and Michigan in ‘97 resulting in split titles. Between the sheer amount of players leaving early for the draft and the most competitive recruiting age ever in college football, along with the heavily flawed BCS system, Alabama was able to create a dynasty out of an era seemingly designed to prevent dynasties. Not to mention the fact the Tide did it in the SEC, which is in the midst of one of the most dominant stretches by any conference in college football history.
Like any good son of Alabama, I grew up hearing stories about all about the great Crimson Tide teams that have graced this town over the last century. I doubt there is a single soul in the state who hasn’t heard of Paul “Bear” Bryant and his six national championships. And after a brutal stretch in the 2000s, including losing to Auburn six straight years, the only way as fans we were able to endure was by clinging dearly to those memories of former greatness. But in the span of a couple of years, we’ve been allowed to go from a culture of revering history to being given the opportunity of watching history being made.
What Nick Saban has been able to accomplish during his short time here at Alabama has been nothing short of amazing. We will be losing many integral players from this year’s national championship team like Dee Millinner, Chance Warmack, Jesse Williams, Eddie Lacy and Barrett Jones, but somehow, next year’s team should be even better.
It’s not just the astronomical amount of talent Saban and crew have been able to acquire through recruiting that has made his run so amazing (including four top ranked recruiting classes since he took over in 2007), but Saban’s ability to persuade these young college students to conform to his system of excellence, and in most cases manage to get these players to live up to their potential. Key players like AJ McCarron, Haha Clinton-Dix, Amari Cooper and Adrian Hubbard showed tremendous growth of the course of the season because of their belief in Saban’s “process.” And as good as they are now, they are going to be a whole lot better next year.
I know we have to play at Johnny Football in Aggieland in week three, LSU will be a tough game like usual and either Florida/South Carolina/Georgia will be a tough out in the SEC championship game. But I still have a hard time seeing any other team but Alabama lifting crystal next year.
They always say at Alabama we don’t watch football, we live it. Well, there may not ever be a better time to be living it than right now.