Nick Saban may face his toughest task yet: Holding down runaway expectations for his inexperienced Alabama team. Crimson Tide’s $4 million-per-year coach gave Alabama backers a reason to think big Saturday night, leading ‘Bama to a thorough 34-10 beating of No. 9 Clemson 34-10 at the Georgia Dome.
“Nobody can be satisfied with a one-game performance,” Saban said. “This will be a challenge for our team and it’ll be interesting to see how they respond.”
Still, as the Alabama band broke into Queen’s “We Are The Champions,” at the end, you had to wonder if they were honoring the Crimson Tide’s past, with 12 national titles and years of dominance in the Southeastern Conference under Bear Bryant, or gazing into the near future.
“It’s still early. We still got a long way to go,” cautioned quarterback John Parker Wilson, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third. “But we’ve got a good group of guys here who can do it.”
The statistical comparison was overwhelming:
|Team Stat Comparison|
|3rd Down Conversions||11-17||1-9|
|4th Down Conversions||0-0||1-2|
It’s worth pointing out that Clemson’s vaunted offense was held to a measly field goal, with 7 of the 10 Tiger points coming on a kickoff return.
ESPN’s Ivan Maisel thinks Alabama is ahead of schedule after a disappointing first year for head coach Nick Saban:
Alabama coach Nick Saban wanted to play No. 9 Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic for a lot of reasons. He wanted the national prime-time exposure of the opening Saturday night. He wanted his No. 24 Crimson Tide to have a presence in this recruiting hotbed. He wanted his young team — 14 freshmen on the two-deep — to play in a bowl-like atmosphere.
Saban, in sum, wanted this game in order to prepare his team for a future when they would be ready to contend for championships. In the wake of Alabama’s 34-10 victory, that may have been Saban’s only miscalculation.
Future? The future is now. If Alabama continues to play as well as it played Saturday night, the Crimson Tide will play in the Georgia Dome again this season — in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game.
It’s an exciting start to the season. Clearly, Saban has done wonders in recruiting. But Alabama faces an absolutely brutal schedule, playing at Arkansas, at #1 Georgia, at #18 Tennessee, at #7 LSU, and closing the regular season at home against #10 Auburn. If they can even win three of those games, it would be a spectacular year. Even that, though, wouldn’t be enough to guarantee them a spot in the SEC title game, let alone the BCS championship game.
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