We Can Only Call Nick Saban What He Is, the Best Coach in College Football History

Having successfully navigated everything from a major social movement to the coronavirus, the 2020 Alabama Crimson Tide is Nick Saban's most impressive championship team yet
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MIAMI — Take a bow Nick Saban. 


He won't, but the Alabama football coach should. 

Saban stayed in the background when senior wide receiver DeVonta Smith won the Heisman Trophy, and didn't make an appearance when the Crimson Tide dominated the Home Depot Awards Show last week.

But when he finally stood on the stage at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday night, there was no way for him to avoid being in the spotlight and getting some of the acclaim he's deserved.

In terms of drama, this one didn't have it. Alabama's offense simply destroyed Ohio State, with Smith out-gaining the Buckeyes by himself during the first half, en route to the lopsided 52-24 victory. 

However, in overall excellence, it's a shame that the stadium was half empty because packed house should have been standing and yelling "Bravo."

With the final challenger dispatched, Alabama claimed it 18th national title, and Saban notched his record-setting seventh, six with the Crimson Tide. 

“Perseverance" probably is the one word that describes this team the best in terms of what they've had to overcome all season long, to come undefeated and win a championship, Saban said. “I'm so proud of these guys. 

“This was a team that was always together.”

What an encore to an impossible season, and that's the thing that will stand out the most about the 2020 Crimson Tide. 

Was it Saban's most complete team? No. 

The most successful team? Maybe.

He called it "the ultimate team."

It was definitely the most focussed. 

When college football made the decision to forge ahead with the season through the ongoing pandemic, the prevailing thought was that either the most talented team or the one that handled things the best would almost certainly capture the title. 

Alabama proved to be both. 

Consequently, this national championship has been the most impressive. 

That's no disrespect to any of the others, which have all been special in their own right: 

The 2009 Alabama team was the first and only undefeated team until now. 

The 2011 team was led by its incredible defense, which came back from the Game of the Century to post a shutout in the title game in LSU's back yard. 

The 2012 Crimson Tide was the first to pull off a back-to-back, and crushed Notre Dame here in spectacular fashion. 

The 2015 championship game was a shootout against Clemson, aided by a record-setting night by tight end O.J. Howard and a pair of jaw-dropping special-teams plays. 

Finally, the 2017 title game against Georgia went to overtime, with six freshmen keying the second-half comeback and Smith on the receiving end of second-and-26. 

That's an incredible lineup of championships.

However, none of those teams had to deal with the coronavirus, much less a massive social movement for racial justice that resulted in a march to the site of the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, a presidential election that divided a nation followed by the Insurrection at the Capitol. 

"I think there's quite a bit to write about with the legacy of his team," Saban said. 

Saban guided the Crimson Tide though it all, including a 10-game SEC only schedule that ended with five games in five weeks, featuring LSU and Auburn on back-to-back Saturdays, and Florida in the SEC Championship Game.

Not only could any of that been a season-derailing distraction, it all could have decimated a team.

Alabama appeared to flick it all off its shoulder, sort of like it did Notre Dame and Ohio State in the College Football Playoff. 

"Tough night," Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. "We just couldn't keep up."

There were setbacks and obstacles of course, from Saban testing positive and missing a game to some key injuries. Yet nothing made this team blink. 

Granted, Ohio State was missing 13 players including two starting defensive linemen against Alabama. Running back Trey Sermon's night ended with a stat line of one carry for two yards after injuring in left shoulder, resulting in a trip to the hospital. Quarterback Justin Fields was playing hurt and couldn't recreate enough of the magic he showed against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl semifinal.

On the other side, dynamic receiver Jaylen Waddle played after suffering what everyone thought was a season-ending injury against Tennessee. Defensive lineman LaBryan Ray (elbow) did as well. Center Landon Dickerson, who recently had knee surgery, warmed up as a reserve.

"Just our love for the team, everyone wanted to do what they could," Smith said.  

As a team captain, the Rimington Award winner and unanimous All-American selection, took the coin flip. 

He won. Ohio State lost. 

The Buckeyes had no choice but get used to it. The Crimson Tide simply refused to yield momentum. 

It's pretty much been that way since Saban arrived in 2007, although how Alabama has done so has dramatically changed. With college football becoming a high-scoring game, the defensive mastermind adapted and created an offensive juggernaut, in part as a response to rules that were adopted to try and slow the Crimson Tide down.

Instead, here's the result:

He's the only coach to win four BCS national championships. 

The only coach to win back-to-back BCS national championships.

The only coach to win multiple College Football Playoff national championships. 

The only coach to win seven national titles.

We'll throw this stat in as well because it's just as important to Saban: His previous five national-title teams had 114 players who had already earned their degrees prior to the championship game. This team had 25.

Consequently, there's no longer any doubt about his status. We'll simply call Saban what he is ... the best ever. 

"Of course, he is," quarterback Mac Jones said. "How could he not be?"

Nick Saban, Alabama practice, December 27, 2020