Alabama’s record of having won four national championships in the past seven years under Coach Nick Saban is among the most remarkable achievements in college football history. Interestingly, only one of those four title seasons – his first at Bama in 2009 – has been an undefeated season.
Alabama won the 2015 national championship, but the one black mark on the season was a 43-37 loss to Ole Miss. Moreover, it was the Crimson Tide’s second consecutive loss to the Rebels.
(By the way, that closed the all-time record between Alabama and Ole Miss to Bama having a 51-10-2 football record against the Rebels.)
When Saban faced reporters at Southeastern Conference Media Days Wednesday, one of the questions he got touched on the back-to-back losses to Ole Miss and whether there had been a consistent theme in those games.
Saban said, “First of all, Ole Miss has had really, really good teams. They've done a really good job against us. I think critical things that happened in the game that affect outcome of games -- we had five turnover last year. They played on a short field and scored a lot of points. They made a couple of big plays that we didn't defend very well. We had some breakdowns in the secondary.
“I think if you're going play well against those kinds of teams who are very prolific offensive teams and play good defense, you got to play good field position, first of all, and we're going to have to do a better job of eliminating the big play so they don't score so many points.”
The Tide coach was also asked about Alabama becoming more of a hurry-up offense in the past couple of seasons after Saban had expressed dissatisfaction with the move of college football to the fast-paced offense that can decrease the ability of the defense to substitute. Part of the question suggested that Saban had hired Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator to change the Bama offense.
Saban said, “First of all, Lane was not really a no-huddle guy.
“That [adding the no-huddle aspect to the offense] was something that we did philosophically because of the issues that it created for us defensively. And it was the rule. Just like I don't necessarily agree with the illegal man down field rule, that a guy should be able to go seven yards down field on a pass play. I don't agree with that. But it is a part of our game. It is the rule.
“So, for us to not use those plays is a disadvantage for us. So even though we may not philosophically agree that this is the way football was meant to be played or should be played, if it creates issues for the other team and for the defense, and pace of play has been something that I think has done that, so have all of these run pass option plays that people run, then we need to use those things, too, or we're creating a disadvantage for ourselves.
“It's been a work in progress for us to learn how to do that because we do not have an offensive coach on our staff that came from that background, came from that hurry-up, no-huddle offense. I think our coaching staff, including Lane, has done a fantastic job sort of developing a system that has been very effective for us in terms of what we've been able to do.”
Saban said that his staff had been on vacation, but would be back next week “and we'll be making final preparations for our season.
“Our players report on August 3 and we practice on August 4, and we're certainly looking forward to that.
“We continue to try to develop our players in so many ways, even over the summer, where we have all of our players now for summer school in terms of personal development programs, whether it's mental conditioning for success, peer intervention for behavioral issues, leadership, communication, all of these things that create value in players that help them be more successful in life, and obviously academics is a big part of that.”
He pointed out, “We're really, really proud of what we've been able to do to create a very positive history of academic success with our players in terms of -- I think our graduation rate is well over 80 per cent for several years now. One of the tops in the country, one of the leaders in the conference. Also a number of graduates that participate in playoff and bowl games and championship games. Last year we had 29. Three guys who already had master's degrees, guys out there playing against Clemson that already had their degrees. I think we've been the leader in that regard for the past three years as well.
“We're really proud of some of those accomplishments that have really enhanced the lives and ability of our players to be successful. I think this is the great thing about college football that sometimes gets overlooked; that there's so many good things that we do to help young people have a better chance to be successful, and sometimes we just choose to focus on the few negative things that happen, but we don't see all of the other people who have a much better chance to be successful, because they got some leadership, developed some relationships that helped them take advantage of the opportunities, and they certainly developed the work ethic and the discipline to be able to do those things. And I think that's the thing that's going to help them be more successful in the life.”
It’s no longer a surprise that Saban ends his SEC Media Days appearance with an expression of appreciation for the media. He concluded, “And one thing I would like to say, which I always say here, is we really appreciate -- even though I get sort of blasted sometimes for how I sort of view the press, that's not really the case. I really appreciate what you do, because you promote our game. You promote our student-athletes. You create a lot of interest for these young men, which I think inspires a lot of them to really want to play even at younger ages.
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“And I think we have a great game and I think sports is something that young people can learn so much when it comes to work ethic, discipline, pride in performance, perseverance, overcoming adversity, lessons in life that can help them have a better chance to be successful in the future. You all promote that for us, and I certainly do appreciate it and thank you for it. So, thanks.”