Under Saban, The Tide Has Turned

October 6, 2010

Nick Saban has become the class of the SEC

On January 3, 2007, Nick Saban agreed to become Alabama’s 27th head coach. Both the Tide and Saban were the butt of many jokes across the nation. College football fans from Eugene, OR, to West Palm Beach, FL, were placing bets on how long it would be before Saban left the Crimson Tide for greener pastures elsewhere. Thirty-eight wins later, it looks as if Saban and Alabama are having the last laugh.

For a conference that prides itself on being the toughest and most competitive, it was only natural for Saban to find himself back at home in the SEC. After cutting his teeth in his first year (7-6) as Alabama’s head coach, Saban has rattled off 31 wins to only 2 losses. Even more impressive is Saban’s undefeated regular season streak dating back to the start of the 2008 season. To many, last week’s highly anticipated Florida-Alabama match-up seemed to be the perfect trap game for ‘Bama. Heading into the week 5 showdown, the Tide had the proverbial bull’s-eye on their back, and Florida was seeking to avenge their gut-wrenching loss in Atlanta last December. The game had all the factors for an upset in the making. However, much to Florida’s dismay, the contest was over by the second quarter. One need not  look past the Florida game for a lesson in Sabanology.

Saban is making the already competitive SEC even more challenging.  The measure of success for the futures of LSU’s Les Miles, Georgia’s Mark Richt, and Florida’s Urban Meyer is being compared to Alabama’s success under Saban. Murmurs have been heard in Gainesville, FL, this week, chiding Urban Meyer and the Florida coaching staff after Saturday’s thrashing in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Les Miles, no stranger to scrutiny and criticism, can ill afford to have his Tigers fail to compete in the West, and Georgia’s Mark Richt is one loss away from being relieved of his head coaching duties. While the three aforementioned coaches experienced successful seasons in the early and mid part of the 2000s, a shift in power started to occur with the hire of Saban.

Nick Saban is good for the SEC. He is raising the level of the competition in the conference and forcing opposing coaches to bring their best efforts every week. Recruiting among the conference teams has been ramped up as well. Trent Richardson, one half of Bama’s lethal running back duo, hails from Escambia High School in Pensacola, FL. Escambia was home to Florida Gator, and NFL great, Emmitt Smith. Saban plucked Richardson from UF’s backyard and convinced him to sign with the Crimson Tide; a move that had many Florida fans wriggling with envy last Saturday night as Richardson rushed for 63 yards on 10 carries. Urban Meyer undoubtedly kicked himself for letting a home state gem slip away.

While the Tide under Saban continue to roll, the rest of the SEC, and the nation, have been put on notice. With last week’s dominating defeat of the Gators, the balance of power in the conference has officially shifted. This Saturday, the Steve Spurrier coached South Carolina Gamecocks will be charged with the task of neutralizing the Crimson Tide. However, recent history suggests that the Tide will emerge from week 6 as winners. While it is far too early to consider ‘Bama under Saban a dynasty, Saban has resurrected the program back to its glory days, reminiscent of the Tide under the great Paul Bear Bryant. Enjoy what you have waited so long for Crimson Tide fans, savor it, for you are the envy of the college football world.

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