By Shane from Centerpoint
Alabama exceeded every punditâ€™s expectations during Nick Sabanâ€™s second stage of the â€œProcessâ€. Even the most optimistic predictor (that would be me), who picked Alabama to finish 9-3, could never have imagined that the Crimson Tide would run through the nationâ€™s toughest league and produce an undefeated regular-season record, while making its first appearance in the SEC Championship game since 1999. If the product that Saban put on the field is an indicator of the future, then Alabama will be a top-tier program for years to come.
Coach Saban has Alabama returning to the Sugar Bowl for the 13th time, with a chance to lead the Tide to its second 13-win season ever. Bama fans around the nation are walking around with a confident swagger and everybody is beginning to acknowledge that Bama is back. The amazing thing about the Tideâ€™s rise to power is the speed in which it happened.
Among the things accomplished by this team include: breaking LSUâ€™s 5-game choke-hold on them, regaining control of the series with Mississippi State after two consecutive-losses, and finally vanquishing cross-state rival, Auburn, after falling to them six times in a row.
Alabama won so impressively over some opponents that their coaches lost their jobs. The list includes: Tommy Bowden (Clemson), Phil Fulmer (Tennessee), Sylvester Croom (Mississippi St.), and Tommy Tuberville (Auburn). Saban would deny it of course but, if the dynamics of the losses are examined closely, that is apparently what occurred.
This yearâ€™s version of the Crimson Tide accomplished a great deal in terms of developing a team personality. Sabanâ€™s men are hard-nosed, smash-mouth players, who bring their lunch every day. They seemed very comfortable with the â€œblue collarâ€ label that most experts use to describe them. They are the personification of fundamental football.
Sabanâ€™s class of â€œblue-chipâ€ freshmen quickly established themselves as some of the better players in a league where experience is usually required to be successful. Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, and Donta Hightower exuded maturity, and established themselves among the best on the field – in spite of their rookie status. Jones is simply in a class by himself. He is an NFL-caliber athlete, and fascinating to watch.
Many upper-classmen, who failed to meet expectations under former coach Mike Shula, flourished under Nick Saban and his staffâ€™s guidance. Offensive line coach Joe Pendry developed one of the best front lines in college football.
Junior college transfer Terrence Cody raised the level of Kevin Steeleâ€™s defense by becoming a huge force on the defensive line. He was the key to one of the best run-stop units in the land.
Year two of the Nick Saban era produced one of the best records in the Crimson Tideâ€™s storied history, and there have been some great ones. With another top 5 recruiting class on the way, year three should be better than the second stanza.
The fact that Alabama set a â€œmonsterâ€ standard (with a 12 or 13-win outing this year) raises the bar to the highest mark. The expectations from the Crimson Nation will rise accordingly. Perfection is the next stage in the process.
Truthfully, the Crimson Tide accomplished more than anyone mightâ€™ve expected in 2008. Tide players, alumni, and fans in general are once again proud to be members of the Crimson Tide family. The future looks brighter than any prognosticator couldâ€™ve ever predicted.
Finally, the days of NCAA probation and the era of tribulation are over. In an unbelievably short period of time, Alabama has regained national respect, returning to the status of being feared by its opponents and loved by the national media. Itâ€™s time to let the good times roll for the Tide!