By Lenn Robbins
Nick Saban, arguably the greatest head coach in college football history, is not happy. Which is truly an intimidating situation for every other program in the nation.
Saban believes his players were undisciplined at times last season. He thinks his team’s preparation wasn’t as good as it should have been on occasion. He speculates that some of his players, now in the NFL, were thinking about themselves ahead of the team.
Saban has spent the last the last six months talking about re-establishing the program’s standard of excellence. Yes, that is a scary narrative if your team faces the Crimson Tide this season.
Mind you, Alabama went 14-1 and last season, not 11-3 or some other utterly unacceptable record in Tuscaloosa. It’s not as if the standard fell off the table. But when you’re Alabama, winner of 15 national championships, the standard is staggeringly high.
So after getting embarrassed in the national championship game, a 44-16 beat down at the hands of Clemson, you better believe that Saban has done everything in his power to make certain the Tide is as disciplined, prepared and focused as any team in the nation.
Oh yes, Alabama also happens to have one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Tua Tagovailoa, a ridiculous amount of depth and talent on both sides of the ball and a schedule that is fair by SEC standards.
The 2019 season begins Saturday with Miami and Florida meeting at Camping World Stadium in Orlando (7:00 p.m.; ESPN), followed by Arizona at Hawaii (10:00 p.m.; CBSSN). Although Clemson and Alabama have dominated the preseason polls, neither are undisputed favorites. NYSportsExtra.com looks at the nation’s Top 25 teams, starting with The Tide.
“I think that the key to us, the key to our success, is can we internally re-establish the standard of what we need to do to be the best team that we can be?” said Saban. “And that’s got to be something that’s done on a consistent basis, and it has to be able to sustain the season. And that’s a challenge for all of us.”
The challenge for every other team is to find a way to beat ‘Bama.
- Alabama: Player Watch: WR Jerry Jeudy. Key Game: Nov. 16 at Mississippi State – Can ‘Bama respond the week after hosting LSU? That BCS Championship Game humiliation provides a lot of motivation. Skinny: Bama’s mindset – to physical dominate at every position – has proved hard to beat.
- Georgia: Player Watch: RB D’Andre Swift. Key Game: Nov. 16 at Auburn – Showdown on the Plains. Skinny: Dawgs are sick and tired of looking up at Alabama. They have lots of company.
- Oklahoma: Player Watch: QB Jalen Hurts. Key Game: Nov. 30th at Oklahoma St. – Bedlam. Skinny: Hurts replaces Kyler Murray who replaced Baker Mayfield. Can’t be that easy, can it?
- Washington: Player Watch: Georgia transfer QB Jacob Eason. Oct 5th at Stanford – One week after hosting USC. Skinny: Chris Petersen has his teams consistently physically and fundamentally prepared.
- Clemson: Player Watch: Key Game: Sept 14th at Syracuse – One week after hosting Texas A&M. Skinny: Yes, we know QB Trevor Lawrence is exceptional but the Tigers lost an NFL caliber line of defenders.
- Michigan: Player Watch: RB Zach Charnonnet. Key Game: Nov. 30th vs Ohio State – Wolverines haven’t beaten the Buckeyes since 2011. Skinny: Michigan has been to Vatican; It hasn’t been to the CFP. Favorable schedule.
- Florida: Player Watch: CB C.J. Henderson; Key Game: Oct. 12th at LSU – One week after Auburn, the Gators go to Death Valley. Skinny: There’s always talent in Gainesville but this is about Year 2 under Dan Mullen.
- Ohio State: Player Watch: DE Chase Young. Key Game: Sept 28th at Nebraska – Georgia transfer QB Justin Fields gets his first nerve-fraying road game. Skinny: Time for Buckeyes to get back to the CFP instead of worrying about trademarking, ‘The.’
- LSU: Player Watch: SS Grant Delpit. Key Game: Nov. 9th at Alabama – If the Tigers want to get back to the SEC elite, no better place to start. Skinny: LSU always has some of the best talent in the country; does it now have discipline and coaching to match?
10. Notre Dame: Player Watch: OG Tommy Kraemer. Key Game: Sept 28 vs Virginia – One week after what figures to be a physical and emotional battle in Athens, can the Irish be ready for a resurgent Virginia program? Skinny: Coach Brian Kelly will need all the depth he’s built to handle this brutal schedule.