Alabama Football flying under the national radar

Florida v Alabama
Florida v Alabama / Brandon Sumrall/GettyImages

With someone other than legendary coach Nick Saban leading the program for the first time since 2006, Alabama Football finds itself in the unfamiliar position of being overlooked.

Coach Saban loomed over the sport like a shadow for nearly two decades; no national college football conversation could be had without the context of Saban and Alabama. Even when the Tide wasn’t mentioned directly, discussions about other programs or head coaches were all relative to the standard of Alabama Football. 

With Coach Saban moving on to other roles, including a lucrative deal with ESPN, many college football fans and media members are ready for somebody other than Alabama to be the center of the discussion. Some truly believe Alabama will fade into mediocrity without Coach Saban, and others are just tired of talking about the Tide. After nearly 20 years of dominance, it’s almost hard to blame them. 

The University of Alabama compounded this effect with its decision to hire Kalen DeBoer. While DeBoer is sufficiently qualified as a football coach, he was the quietest and most mysterious of all the potential candidates to replace Coach Saban.

DeBoer has not been on the major college football scene for very long. In fact, while he made some noise as the offensive coordinator at Indiana and as the head coach at Fresno State, his most recent two-year stint at Washington was his first and only Power Five head coaching gig. 

When Coach Saban won his last national title in 2020, no one knew how much longer he would coach at Alabama. What if someone had told you, as DeVonta Smith and the Tide ran away from Ohio State down in Miami, that Saban would be replaced in three years time by a man who had never coached at the Power Five level? It certainly would’ve been hard to believe and even harder to stomach. 

As a result of Coach Saban’s retirement, and his subsequent replacement by a coach that the general public still knows very little about, the program is flying under the radar for the first time in recent memory.

Sure, the Alabama brand will still generate buzz. Even as they pretend that the Tide is a thing of the past, the national college football audience will keep one eye fixed on Tuscaloosa in the 2024 season, pondering questions such as: What will Kalen DeBoer do in year one? How different will the program look? There’s no way he can sustain the standard that has been set at Alabama…right?

Bama is way down at 9th in ESPN’s Way-Too-Early 2024 rankings. While the Tide is still a top-10 program and a projected playoff team according to this ranking, it's clear that the program is expected to take a dip. 

Coach DeBoer will have to prove himself, and he will have to do so under as much scrutiny as any college football coach has ever faced. Still, his track record speaks for itself. I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that DeBoer can’t possibly maintain Alabama Football as a perennial title contender. I don’t even believe it’s outside the realm of possibility that DeBoer revamps the program and takes it to new heights. 

If he does, it’s going to be difficult for the rest of the college football world to process.