It is too soon to fully understand how the 2018 Alabama football season will be remembered. Nick Saban reminds us one game does not define a season but …
A jolt was received Monday night – from Nick Saban to the Alabama football staff, to Crimson Tide fans, dreams died and future hope dimmed. It was a devastating loss to Clemson who clearly was the better football team.
For Alabama football fans the game was a jarring reality check. The last time Alabama football was beaten so soundly was on a bitterly cold December afternoon in Nashville in 1998. Sleet stung the faces of Tide fans that afternoon but the national championship game loss hurts more – much more.
The last time Nick Saban experienced such a large blowout was when Florida beat his 2001, LSU Tigers 44-15. Two seasons later, LSU won a national championship. Back then, Nick Saban was younger, perhaps hungrier for success. Parallels between then and now may or may not be valid.
What is next for Nick Saban is simple. He will go back to work, striving to make his Alabama football players and teams the best each can become. Rainer Sabin, writing for al.com described the calmness exhibited by Saban in the post-game review.
He’s a man who has always seemed most at peace when he has a challenge in front of him. And so now the test begins. As he conducts the autopsy on the loss to Clemson and begins formulating the plan to address his team’s weaknesses, he and his staff will have plenty to ponder.
“I think you learn a lot from experiences like this,” Saban said. “We certainly didn’t play very well tonight, and we had some issues.”
Alabama football fans hope the challenge now before Nick Saban is one for which he has an unwhetted appetite. As a man, Nick Saban has never appeared to feel comfortable being at the pinnacle of success. Maybe for an hour or so after a national championship victory, he has soaked in some satisfaction. Quickly, he returns to what he knows best – working, grinding, striving to make himself and those around him better.
At what age does returning to that comfort zone of challenge begin to fade for Nick? None of us know, and we suspect neither does he.
Before Nick Saban’s head hit a pillow Monday night, the climb back up the mountain began again. Where that climb leads and where it ends will be college football’s most compelling story of 2019.
Only at Alabama is a 14-1 season with a SEC Championship and an Orange Bowl victory considered a failure. Expectations are absurdly high every season. It is those outlandish expectations that have made Tuscaloosa the perfect home for Nick Saban.
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