Saban Wants Team To Dominate

When Nick Saban was introduced as Alabama's head football coach some 20 months ago, he said that one of the things he would do is have a team that would dominate the opposition. That didn't happen in a mostly unsatisfactory first season, even in the victories. It has in the one game of Year Two.

At the end of the first half of Alabama's 2008 season-opening game against Clemson Saturday night in Atlanta, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban said, "We're winning the battle up front. That's what we have to do. It opens up everything on both sides of the ball."

Nothing changed in the second half as the Crimson Tide cruised to a 34-10 win over ninth-ranked Clemson. On Sunday, Clemson Coach Tommy Bowden said he was surprised at how easily Alabama won the battle on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

To be sure, one game does not a season make. Alabama can't claim the job has been done because of victory over Clemson. But it's an encouraging beginning.

Early in fall camp, Saban held an open-to-the-public practice at Bryant-Denny Stadium in conjunction with Fan Day. Saban has practices in which special groups are permitted to watch, but this one was for the unwashed, including sportswriters.

Almost everyone agreed that Alabama looked more like a football team than had been the case in many years. Alabama looked big and fit. Alabama looked fast. Alabama appeared to have pieces to the puzzle of domination.

While the Clemson football family is most aware of how dominating Alabama was Saturday night at the GeorgiaDome in Atlanta, rest assured that every coach, player and fan of teams on Bama's schedule knows about the Tide beat-down of the Tigers. And it will stay in their minds as long as Alabama continues to play with the speed and toughness that was on display Saturday. Bama had many decades of putting teams on the field who were in the minds of the opponent, and those were successful Tide teams.

It's natural for a beaten team to consider what it did not do. In evaluations of the 2007 Alabama season, even Saban pointed out that the losses were primarily do to what Bama did not do rather than to what the opponents did. Clemson players made references to their failings following Saturday's game, but in at least one instance the diagnosis was that Alabama was just much better than expected.

Alabama was very, very good against Clemson. As Saban has pointed out, that doesn't guarantee Bama will be good in future games, but the platform is higher than it has been in recent years. Crimson Tide players recognize the demands of the off-season, spring practice, the summer program, and fall camp have been designed to make them dominant. The result shown against Clemson should be motivation for continued hard work.

Alabama may not have games in which it holds good running teams to zero rushing yardage, as was the case against Clemson. Bama may not dominate in time of possession as was the 41:13 to 18:47 situation. Or the 80 plays to 48, the 419 yards to 188, 25 first downs to 11.

Maybe not.

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