Back when Notre Dame thought it had a chance against Alabama and Manti T’eo thought he had a girlfriend, there were already more than a few rumblings of a dynasty-in-the-making down in Tuscaloosa.
Now it’s official; Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide is not merely a dynasty. It may be the best one ever.
Only two teams – Notre Dame in the 1940s and Nebraska in the 1990s – won three national titles in a four-year span. But neither of those teams won all three in unanimous fashion. That alone makes Alabama’s accomplishment unprecedented. Now it will try to do the unthinkable.
No team or coach in history has won four national titles in a seven-year span. This means Saban has three full seasons to go where no man, and no team, has gone before. And the chances are good in 2013, a season in which the Tide will likely start the season ranked atop the polls.
Who is most likely to stop Alabama’s run? Here are five potential answers, in order of appearance on the Tide’s schedule.
Texas A&M. Johnny Football returns, as does OT Jake Matthews. Not to mention a good core of returning players and head coach Kevin Sumlin. Alabama proved it could severely hamper the Aggies offense by giving up only 9 points during the final three quarters of the 2012 game in Tuscaloosa. Adjustments were made, and they worked. But Sumlin may make a few adjustments of his own, and the game is in College Station. The Tide has a week off before traveling to Aggie Land, which is a much better situation than having to play Manziel the week after beating LSU in Baton Rouge. The Tide should win, but this is a game it could easily lose.
Ole Miss. The least likely on this list to pull an upset, but only because Alabama is so vastly superior to most teams it plays. The Fighting Black Bears might be buying their way into a fine recruiting class, but until someone proves it, those players will be lining up on the other side of the ball. It’s very likely a year too early for Ole Miss to pose a real threat to Saban’s machine, but things could get interesting beginning in 2014.
LSU. Losing 11 juniors to the draft would destroy most programs for at least a year. And the Tigers will certainly slide a bit. But slipping from “elite” to “very good” means LSU will still be capable of pulling an upset. Easily the most important game on the schedule for Miles and his team, Alabama knows to expect a close, hard-fought battle. Both teams have a week off before the showdown in Titletown, so both teams will be rested and likely reasonably healthy. The Tide should win, but if recent history is any indication, it will be a nip-and-tuck affair. Then again, Saban usually makes history’s ass quit, so I suppose you never know.
SEC East Champion. Whether it’s Georgia, Florida or South Carolina, this will be a formidable opponent. The Gamecocks would seem to have the best shot of pulling the upset, due in large part to the Spurrier Factor. He is easily the best coach in the East and one of the best there is. Saban has a better team, but South Carolina – my pick to win the East – may end up being the second or third best team Alabama plays all year.
Whoever Shows Up in Pasadena. Unless it’s Texas A&M again, this will almost certainly be no better than the fourth-best team Alabama plays all season long. If Alabama gets here and Johnny Football is in his customary skybox checking out his Twitter fan club, this game won’t pose much of a threat.
What Alabama has done in recruiting and in performance is something few have ever done, and Saban is on the fast track to doing what no one has ever done or will likely do again. If he keeps it up, his rivals will continue doing their best Manti T’eo impression.
Grasping at air, both on and off the field.