Nick Saban, King of College Football Coaches: Alabama Lets Good Times Roll

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saban_136649880_620x350-300x169The legend of the Crimson Tide was an ambassador, a wise father figure for turning boys into men as one of the all-time successful football coaches, and he came way before our time. That was Paul “Bear” Bryant, of course. Now, years later, it’s Nick Saban at the University of Alabama.

With all apologies, after leading the Crimson Tide and changing the landscape in the modern era – as one of the most successful coaches in college football history — though he’s controversial and often crabby, Saban is arguably a genius of football, from crafty recruiting to game planning. The least we can do, while Alabama became the first team to win a national title without winning its conference, is realize that he is NOT Satan but the best college football coach of this age.

He’s one of the coaches the masses don’t want to respectfully credit for leading Alabama to two national title games in three years, including the 2012 BCS National Championship game, even though he’s one of the most enigmatic and eccentric figures in college sports. But the undeniable king of college coaches wears Alabama red, and presumably this could be the prelude of a dynasty that may have ‘Bama fans discussing Saban’s legacy for ages.

This isn’t what anyone had in mind, when LSU was favorite in the rematch. But the Tigers fooled the entire nation by finishing the night scoreless, all while Saban had his players prepared for the match up against their conference foes. As viewed, for once, Saban smiled and celebrated on the field with his players, and now he is a well-accomplished coach in Division I football, if not all.

Forgive me if I were too hard on Saban, too fast to judge him. The first thing that comes to mind, when it comes to a petulant, grouchy individual, maybe even more so when Saban is truly known for his relentless idiosyncrasies, is that he’s inhuman and mistreats his players.

imagesNot true whatsoever. Yes, I understand Saban walked out on Miami obligations just two years after his arrival, and certainly, left the city under fire. Yes, I understand he allegedly stepped over and continued to walk over a convulsing player. Yes, I understand he denied and rebuffed interest in the Alabama coaching job, and then ran away from Miami to Tuscaloosa for a guaranteed $32 million contract when he left behind unfinished business as an NFL coach.

The promise was so intriguing that he fled for the wealth. The persuasion was so smooth that he ran for prestige and for the power of college athletes, and has brought great success to the University of Alabama by smart recruiting and developing his players.

Call him greedy. Call him a liar. Call him Sayeth. Call him money hungry. Call him what you want.

But, in honesty, he’s a mastermind and the first and only coach to win a national championship at two schools. Saban’s superb strategies and tactics paid off big time, and perhaps, he had planned wisely and appeared calm in his final news conference. And that, in a realistic way, is why the rematch was a 21-0 beatdown as the Crimson Tide solely overpowered LSU in a cupcake fashion.

It was never pretty when, in fact, it was the most awful national title game in BCS history, and frankly it was nothing more but an ugly shutout. Saban kept his players focused and made the proper adjustments as needed. The entire nation now knows, while Saban demanded that his players prepare for this moment by him spending hours in the film room and by him shouting at his players in grueling workouts and preparations to work harder, that he is savvy and tough to beat, particularly in pivotal situations.

It’s one thing for Saban to break a 17-year title drought. It’s another for him to win three national championships, the most in BCS history, and become 8-1 in games while he was a coach at LSU from 2000-04. The lore of Alabama football has grown ever since Saban arrived, and a tale has been told — two crystal football trophies has illustrated the school’s place in history. But more importantly, Saban’s place among coaches.

What was more notable, after Monday night’s dominant performance, was that AP voters, those accountable for a potential split, were politically correct in a sense — amazed by Saban’s brilliance. The performance proved that the nation doubted Saban and the Crimson Tide, and erroneously disrespected him and his players as they stunned the world in commanding fashion, spanking the hell out of the Tigers.

So respectively, it’s now realistic to regard Alabama as the more dominant team in the nation, with all its weapons, mental toughness and masterful game plans. There’s nobody particularly as dynamic as Saban and offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, who has been hired as coach at Colorado State — reducing the number of touches and dislodging reliable tailback Trent Richardson from the game plan.

Instead, for a change, they designed numerous plays through the air and sophomore quarterback AJ McCarron wasn’t inconsistent as in previous games. He was impeccable and executed his passes beautifully. At the very least, he ran play-actions to confuse LSU linebackers and defensive backs, and he was accurate in delivering passes to his receivers.

For most he’s not considered a great pass thrower – but more importantly, he threw for a career-high 23 completions in 34 pass attempts and finished with 234 yards with no interceptions. It was a quiet night for the running game, for which Richardson had only rushed for 55 yards in three quarters. It’s telling McCarron was one of the stars of the game, in what was a boring contest, but Alabama’s defense was unstoppable, irresistible and potent and LSU had finally crossed the 50 with eight minutes left.

Jordan Jefferson seemed, at the time, like a leader with no control. And in truth, LSU senior quarterback played the worst game of his career, to end his college career in such disappointment, one that will haunt him for quite some time. He had a horrific night, throwing for only 53 yards and rushing for 15.

A slew of turnovers killed Jefferson as well, when he fumbled twice on third down and when he foolishly made an errant throw that resulted in an interception. And for much of the time, he was flummoxed as Saban and the Bear Bryant-style-like defense harassed Jefferson and created plenty of difficulties. In the end, LSU just accounted for 92 yards with five first downs.

Some think Saban is Nick Satan, others think he’s Benenick Arnold. Hate it or like it, he is the king. Hate it or like it, he has no real sins. If anything, he has a real football program that he turned around himself.

How about this? King Nick.

It’s quite fitting for Saban, the king of college coaches.

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