By Michael Hicks
Many people saw this coming, but not this soon.
Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide are undefeated midway through the season and ranked second in the nation. The national media is starting to take notice after a beat down of the previously ninth ranked Clemson Tigers and a knockout of #3 Georgia.
Head coach Nick Saban has done many interviews and was the subject of a spotlight on ESPNâ€™s College GameDay. The team has graced the cover of Sports Illustrated.
All this proves that college football is better when The University of Alabama is relevant and good.
After the abysmal 2006 season and the embarrassing coaching search that followed, many thought the Tide was an afterthought in the football spotlight. It had been six years since the they had competed for the SEC championship. And it was going on its eighth head coach since Bear Bryan retired in 1982.
Many media members laughed as coach after coach turned down Alabama. Who would want to coach at a program where you can never escape the shadow of Bear Bryant and the championships of the past?
Then Nick Saban came to the Capstone and brought his process with him.
After breaking out with a huge win against Tennessee in his first season, the Tide stumbled to a 7-6 final recordedâ€”the worst loss coming at home to Louisiana Monroe.
Many thought that Alabama was still two or three years away from being a major factor in the national race or even the SEC race.
Coming into this season the goal was just to improve. After bringing in the nations number one recruiting class the future looked bright. Maybe the Tide would upset some people and go 8-4, end the six-game losing streak to Auburn and go to a decent bowl game.
Then in the Georgia Dome with the nation watching the Tide came out and whipped national title contender Clemson 34-10. Suddenly Bama looked ahead of schedule.
Saban knew his team would have expectations soar especially by the sometimes delusional and unrealistic fan base. After three more wins against inferior opponents the magical season was supposed to end at the â€œBlackoutâ€ in Athens.
Georgia was too good had too many offensive weapons. And the Tide was still a year away from really being competitive against the SEC big boys.
The first 30 minutes saw the Tide put on a clinic of how to silence a hostile road crowd. 31-0 at halftime and people were talking national championship for this Tide team.
Alabama fans stumbled out of Sanford Stadium in disbelief of what they just witnessed. Is Alabama really this good? Is Georgia this bad? Can these guys run the table?
The national media thought so by giving Alabama 21-first place votes in the AP pollâ€”moving them up to second in the nation.
After a wake up call against Kentucky and watching what happened to USC and Florida, fans now see how easy it is to slip in todayâ€™s college football world. Saban has proved to be a master so far at managing this team, giving them praise when they need it and taking them down a notch so they donâ€™t get high on themselves.
He knows how easy it would be for this team to let up and bask in what they have achieved so far.
Still there are not many people left who doubt Alabama as a national contender. ESPNâ€™s Brad Edwards said â€œIt would take a complete collapse for Alabama not to be playing in a BCS bowl.â€
The target on the Tide grows every Saturday. Teams will be bringing there â€œAâ€ game when they play the Tide.
Whether this dream season ends January 8 in Miami or not Saban has brought Alabama football back to the national spotlight and I have a feeling they are here to stay.