In dismantling Miami, Alabama exhibits that it’s nonetheless the strongest workforce in faculty soccer
ATLANTA – Nick Saban really wanted us to believe he was concerned. That he was worried. That maybe sometime in the last month of preparation for Alabama’s first game of the 2021 college football season, he sat at the dining table with his wife, Miss Terry, wringing their hands and frowning at what might be happening in Atlanta over Labor Day Weekend.
Forget that in previous season openers he was on the neutral side 10-0. Or that six of these 10 victories were achieved against ranked opponents. Or that those six wins were earned with an average of almost 27 points per game.
Instead, the greatest college football coach of all time, having had the best season his GOAT era has ever produced, held onto his glut of discomfort on Saturday morning. Just hours before reigning national champions Alabama took on an often “resurgent” team from Miami Hurricanes that wanted to bring down the top 10 by containing the tide, Saban spoke in almost muffled tones. No smile. Just a premonition.
“It’s always a little, did I do a good job? Saban told ESPN’s Marty & McGee in the College Football Hall of Fame when asked if he is still nervous in the first game after more than a quarter of a century as college head coach. “There’s a bit of fear there.”
He spoke about the weight of expectations, the challenge of replacing a historically unstoppable 2020 offensive fueled by a now-vanished Heisman Trophy winner wide receiver and an NFL first-round draft pick at the quarterback. He recalled that in addition to hiring two new coordinators, he had only one returning assistant on his entire offensive staff.
When Saban listed it all, it actually sounded convincingly insurmountable.
And then his team beat the 14th Miami 44-13. The Tide scored 501 yards offensive when replacement quarterback Bryce Young set Alabama first-start pass records with 344 yards and four touchdowns. The receivers responsible for getting into the tunnels of last year’s All-Stars did so en masse, with a whopping 10 players taking in at least one catch.
The man who spent his mornings convincing us of his lack of confidence was spending his stoppage time downright dizzy at the newfound confidence he’d just seen in his young locker room.
Bryce Young looked like a veteran in his first start, throwing 344 yards and four touchdowns. Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images
“I think that’s really important, especially when you have a lot of new players who don’t have a lot of experience,” said the 69-year-old coach after posing with these youngsters while wearing an antique leather helmet that was awarded by the club became chick-fil-a kickoff game. “When you get into the game and get some success, the reward for all the work you’ve put in, it really builds confidence. Hopefully it will help them develop and improve.”
Seeing what happened at the science fiction Mercedes-Benz stadium on Saturday afternoon was, in fact, like being trapped in some sort of Marvel Comics time warp. A solid four hour houndstooth déjà vu.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Don’t actually stop me. Continue reading. Because after tonight, this story will not repeat itself for a long time.
2008. Week 1. Atlanta. No. 24 Alabama upset No. 9 Clemson 34-10. The win ignites Alabama’s return to big time as it wins 12 regular season games. Clemson falls apart completely and fires trainer Tommy Bowden.
2009. Week 1. Atlanta. Fifth-placed Alabama beats seventh-placed Virginia Tech 34-24. Alabama wins its first national championship under Saban, while the Hokies pale into a three-loss season.
2013. Week 1. Atlanta. No. 1 Alabama 35, Virginia Tech 10.
2014. Week 1. Atlanta. No. 2 Alabama 33, West Virginia 23.
2019. Week 1. Atlanta. No. 2 Alabama 49, Duke 3.
And those are just the games that are played in Atlanta. The biggest victories on neutral locations were in Orlando and Texas. There was the 52-6 beating of No. 20 USC in 2016, the 2012 and ’15 Beatdowns of Michigan and Wisconsin, both in Arlington, Texas. And then the cruelest breakdown of all, a 17-point win over 3rd Florida State in Orlando, which marked the beginning of the end for Jimbo Fisher’s time with the Seminoles.
Every open act won, the Battle of Atlanta, Orlando or Arlington, served the ultimate purpose of putting someone in their place. Maybe it was an old school powerhouse that needed to be told Alabama was real. Maybe it was an upstart who thought he might bring down the Alabama playoff blockade. Perhaps it was just a showcase displayed in front of a nation of recruits, especially those who lived in the neighborhood of the teams that were just being wiped out by the flood.
John Metchie III scored the game’s first touchdown and was one of 10 Alabama receivers to catch a pass against Miami. David J. Griffin / Icon Sportswire
And in at least some cases, it has felt like Saban let an entire conference know that their best team isn’t ready for SEC prime time just yet.
Saturday’s win over Miami felt like it covered all of the above.
So the thousands of Alabama fans walking up Peachtree Street on Saturday night celebrated the victory but also mourned days like this. Now, after a decade of neutral page openings, Alabama has booked home and home series with Power 5 opponents through 2035.
Will it be worth losing the $ 5 million Bama received from the Atlanta Bowl people every September? They say yes by adding more value to Tuscaloosa season ticket holders.
Because of me. But will it be worth losing the mainstream mojo and messages on it during this 11-0 season opening streak?
“I wouldn’t worry too much about Coach Saban in the future,” said Miami’s head coach Manny Diaz with a laugh. “So far it seems to be working for him.”