HOOVER, Ala. — Nick Saban is as hard to distract as he is to beat.
Ask the Alabama coach what winning a third consecutive national title would mean, and he wonders why he’d waste brain power thinking about it.
Compare him to Bear Bryant, and he swiftly dismisses such talk – though it isn’t sounding so farfetched these days.
The Crimson Tide’s ultra-focused coach didn’t let 1,000-plus reporters at Southeastern Conference Media Days change his process-oriented approach.
Three consecutive titles sure would be huge, huh?
“I don’t think about it in that regard. I never, ever do,” Saban said.
“I think the most important thing for me to do is to get our staff, the people in our organization, our players to be as good as this team can be,” he added.
Saban has won three of the past four NCAA titles after claiming another one at Louisiana State University.
Can observers fairly
say he’s reaching Bear-ified air?
“I don’t think I have any reason that anybody should do that. I think Bear Bryant is probably the greatest coach in college football in terms of what he accomplished, what his legacy is,” said Saban, citing not only the titles but how Bryant influenced his players’ lives.
The Tide has been mostly driving the Rolls Royce of football conferences since Saban got the program rolling.
The SEC has won the past seven national titles.
Even losses to top contenders Texas A&M last year and LSU two years ago have been mere speed bumps to an Alabama program with the sturdiest of shock absorbers.
Alabama barely pulled out wins over both LSU and then Georgia in the SEC title game last season. Once again – as the Tigers’ Les Miles points out – the Tide don’t have to play East powers Georgia, Florida or South Carolina in the regular season.
LSU, meanwhile, faces Georgia and Florida.
“There can never be an equal path to the championship,” said Saban, the lone coach who voted for a nine-game league schedule in the spring.
“Unless everybody plays everybody, that’s the only equal path to the championship.
“Everybody doesn’t play everybody in the NFL. You rotate your schedule.”
Quarterback AJ McCarron has started on two of the national title teams and been around for all three. He adhered to the seemingly ingrained philosophy in Saban’s program of avoiding using that dynasty word for the Tide’s current run.
“We know what we have achieved,” McCarron said. “We don’t need one word to describe what we’ve accomplished as a team and as a university as a whole.”
Offensive lineman Anthony Steen isn’t quite so reticent on what a fourth title in five years would mean.
“I can’t explain how special that would be,” Steen said. “I know all the guys are thinking about it, but we’re just focusing on the first game.”
It certainly seems as though they’re not done being a contender yet. Reinforcements are on campus from the latest top-ranked recruiting class to help replace three first-round NFL draft picks. Plus, stars like McCarron, linebacker C.J. Mosley and wide receiver Amari Cooper return. Saban said this team probably has better offensive skill players.
That loaded roster and recent history make ‘Bama the heavy favorite to win the SEC again.
Alabama was the overwhelming pick by league media to repeat as SEC champion. Saban noted that reporters have been right only four times in 21 years and says picking a preseason favorite is “crazy” because there are so many factors.
“Now, if I were to go 4-17 as a coach, I would be back in West Virginia pumping gas in my daddy’s gas station,” Saban said.
And he might even be debating some other coach’s legacy.