Alabama Still Has Long Way To Go

In recent weeks, Alabama Coach Nick Saban has spoken frequently of his emphasis on the Crimson Tide football team playing to a "standard." This fits in with his process-oriented (as opposed to goal-oriented) philosophy. Semantics aside: use the process, reach the standard, and the result is a satisfying stomp of the chomp.

Alabama defeated Florida by the thoroughly convincing score of 31-6 Saturday night. Even more than the score was the physical domination of Bama over the Gators. As the slogan goes, "THIS is Alabama football!"

The Crimson Tide is confirmed in this week's polls as clearly the nation's best. Consider that just a few months earlier, it had been Florida that was seen as the dominant program in college football. The Gators lost that position in the 2009 Southeastern Conference Championship Game, a surprising 32-13 Crimson Tide victory en route to Bama winning the national championship.

The Saturday night Alabama romp just confirmed the changing of the guard, at least for the time being.

That time being reasonably could be seen as the Nick Saban time. It's hard to believe that just a few years ago a common thread in sports journalism was that Alabama's football time was done, that Crimson Tide partisans were living in a dream world if they thought Bama would ever again bne dominant, and even to the specific that there was no chance Saban would consider trying to resurrect Alabama football.

One of the biggest surprises is that many of those sports reporters still have jobs.

Alabama haters believe that Crimson Tide fans have an unrealistic view of Bama football. The truth is, there still is no reason for Alabama not to be the dominant program in the South and among the best in the nation.

An even bigger surprise than Saban being interested in accepting the challenge of restoring Alabama is that he met it so quickly. His first year was sabotaged by the so-called text book scandal, which resulted in key players being suspended from the team as Saban's first squad in 2007 struggled to a 7-6 record.

Since then, the Tide has rolled. Twelve consecutive regular season wins in 2008, interrupted by disappointing losses in the SEC Championship Game to Florida and the Sugar Bowl to Utah, have been followed by 19 consecutive wins. The 14-0 record of 2009 resulted in Bama's 13th national championship.

Now Alabama is 5-0 and ranked number one. Five games, though, does not a season make. A number of other college football teams are undefeated. Two other teams in the SEC Western Division are 5-0.

Indeed, in the SEC, not much is different than what would have been expected in a pre-season look at the schedule. Alabama, Auburn and LSU would have been expected to be undefeated, Arkansas would have been expected to have lost to Alabama and perhaps to Georgia, Florida would have been expected to be 4-1 after visiting Tuscaloosa.

Okay, Georgia is not where one would have suspected the Bulldogs to be, particularly the loss to Mississippi State. And Ole Miss would have been expected to beat Vanderbilt.

There is a lot of football to be played. One could say that Alabama will be favored in every remaining game, but that's no shock. The Crimson Tide would have been favored in every game prior to the first fall practice.

Alabama took a step forward against Florida. It wasn't a perfect defensive game, but the defense showed the growth that has been expected under Saban. Crimson Tide take-aways were critical to Alabama success and demoralized Florida.

As has been widely recognized, the SEC schedule-maker has given Alabama an extraordinary row of hurdles. To be first at the end, Bama now has to succeed against six consecutive league teams which will have an open date before playing the Tide. (Alabama will also have an open week prior to Saban matching wits with LSU Coach Les Miles.)

The run begins this week in Columbia when Alabama meets South Carolina. Kickoff will be at 3:30 p.m. EDT (2:30 p.m. central) with television coverage by CBS.

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