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When we look back at the 2015 college football season, I suspect a few things are going to stand out above all others.
We’ll remember Dabo Swinney whipping and naenae’ing Clemson into the college football playoff picture. We’ll remember the Great Quarterback Derby of 2015 in Columbus, one which produced roughly 26 different changes under center, and hundreds of grey hairs on the side of Urban Meyer’s head. Oh, and we’ll remember the absurd stance by some in the media that Alabama’s dynasty was crumbling…
Wait? Why are you looking at me like that?
Ok, ok, you’re right: We’ll remember MY absurd stance that the Alabama dynasty was crumbling.
That’s right, I was one of those guys, one of those idiots really, who said that the Alabama dynasty was over as we knew it following a loss to Ole Miss. That the Ole Miss loss wasn’t just a literal defeat on the football field, but symbolic of something bigger. Symbolic that the Tide were no longer a “great” program but just another “good” one. That the SEC, and college football in general had caught up with them. That maybe, just maybe, Nick Saban had lost his touch for good.
So yeah, I was wrong. But while I was wrong then, it doesn’t mean that it’s too late to make things right today. It’s not too late to admit the error in my ways, to get down on my hands and knees and pray for forgiveness at the Altar of Alabama.
While some sportswriters would hide their embarrassment, pretend the original article never happened, and change the subject (“Hey, how about that Oklahoma State pass defense!) I’m not one of those guys.
Nope, I’m ready to admit I was incorrect, that I misdiagnosed the Crimson Tide football program, and to do it in the most public way possible: with an apology letter to Nick Saban.
Dear Coach Saban-
Aaron Torres here, and let me get something out of the way right off the top: Yes, I’m one of those reporters who may have spent the last few weeks questioning yo—
Wait, what’s that Coach? You couldn’t care less who I am? The only reporter you have any respect for is the young gal who brings you the weather report every morning? That I have less than a minute to make my point before you pull my scholarship and put my ass on the first bus back to Decatur?
Well coach, I’ve actually never been to Decatur. But you seem in a hurry, so let me get right to it.
Look, I’ve got to be honest, a few weeks ago I had major doubts about your team. I wondered if they had what it took to be a real threat this season. I asked if the rest of college football had caught up. If your program had gone from “elite” to just “good” in the SE—
Coach, why are you walking towards me with that look in your eye? Please just give me half a second to explain!
Honestly, I’d understand why you’d think I am an idiot (that whole “dead and buried and gone” speech was directed at me, wasn’t it, coach?), but let’s be honest, something wasn’t right the night you played Ole Miss. You guys used to never lose games period, let alone games like that, in blowouts at home against QB’s with more bicep tattoos than SEC wins on their resume. So really, I didn’t just question because you lost, but how it happened. Forty-three points allowed? Nearly 350 yards passing from the other team? Five turnovers. It felt so wrong, coach. Like watching Bret Bielema order a soup and salad at a steakhouse or something…
Oh, you like that one, didn’t you coach? Man, do I love to see you smile.
Anyway, where was I?
Oh yes, telling you about how wrong I was. And how I should have never doubted the King of the South, or the decisions he makes. By the way, “King Saban” has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
Either way, I was watching closely during that stretch, coach (because honestly, who could take their eyes off of you?) and in doing so, I’ll be the first to admit that while the Ole Miss game was a loss, it was also the start of something different: It was the start of your ascent back towards the top of the college football world. By the end of that game you guys had found a quarterback, and a new lease on the season.
I saw it then, coach, but I think the first time that America saw it was in your game against Georgia. And to fully explain, I need to first take a step back for a second.
So let me start by saying that to me, I did feel like your program had lost its identity somewhat over the last few years…
Again, coach, please stop staring at me like that. I’m going to explain!
The truth is, you kind of forgot who you were over that time, didn’t you? You got away what had made you so great, for so long. Rather than run the ball, you got a little too pass happy (I blame that Kiffin fella, with all those fancy play cards he likes to trot around). Your defensive backs gave up too many big plays through the air. And golly coach, some teams even figured out how to move the ball against you on the ground. I won’t mention Ezekiel Elliot’s name but… man, I guess I just did. I’m sorry coach.
Well anyway, that Georgia game was a rebirth of sorts. That game wasn’t about all the bells and whistles that have come with your program over the last few years; the moderate salary that some in the media have made a big deal about (although personally, I think it’s completely reasonable), the army of support staff you employ, or those dang waterfalls in your locker room.
Nope, that Georgia game was about getting back to old-school, Nick Saban football. It was about you taking the ball and shoving it down their throats. It was about your defense making Greyson Lambert look like, well, a guy who transferred after he lost the starting job at Virginia. It was about your DB’s playing with a mean streak. It was about you guys walking into a tough environment, with near impossible weather conditions, and laying a beat down on the ‘Dawgs.
Sure, the rain came down hard that day. But as it turned out, the only storm brewing was Hurricane Saban.
But in all honesty, I really do think that all that rain and mud and muck brought something out of your team and your program that day that had long been dormant. You guys got back to your roots. You got away from all the glamour and locker room waterfalls and just played football. To quote Dabo Swinney (who I have no doubt you will soon demolish in the playoff), it was a “BYOG game.” Well coach, you brought your own guts that day.
And you guys haven’t looked back since.
Next up was a beat down of Bielema and Arkansas (remember that joke I made earlier about him? That was great, wasn’t it?). Then you broke Kyle Allen’s psyche (and potentially a few bones) in that pick-six fiasco at Kyle Field. You beat Tennessee in a game that was darn close coach, but you also promised us that your team would be well-rested and better off the bye.
And boy were you right.
Because let’s be honest here: That game against LSU wasn’t so much a “game” as it was a “religious experience.” It was a three-hour sermon at the Church of Saban, where we were all dipped in holy water (with a little Gatorade mixed in), and where all our sins — and doubts — were washed away.
Yes, that’s right, some of us did in fact have our doubts, but within minutes it was obvious that the only thing worthy of being questioned that night was “by how much will Alabama win.” From the beginning, poor Brandon Harris looked more overwhelmed than a high school sophomore at a college sorority party. Leonard Fournette wasn’t going to find the end zone unless he had Google maps and a good Uber driver. Derrick Henry, well, you saw it with your own two eyes. By the way, you book your trip to New York for December yet? That guy might win the damn Heisman Trophy.
Yes, coach, the win was that dominating.
In part it was the numbers. The fact that you outgained the No. 2 team in the country by a margin of nearly four yards to one. The fact that Derrick had more yards rushing (210) than they had in total (182). That you guys dominated time of possession like an older brother in a game of backyard pick-up hoops in the driveway.
But honestly, it was more than that.
It was the way that every time LSU made a positive play it seemed to be much more about luck than skill. How we all let out a good chuckle when the Tigers actually crossed midfield (remember that 2012 title game coach, that sure was a hoot, huh?). How even when something went right for LSU (like that late touchdown) you guys put your own stamp on it when A’Shawn Robinson blocked the PAT.
And seriously coach, that one play — the blocked PAT — might have summed up your dominance better than just about anything else could.
To most, that play looked like just another blocked kick. But to those of us who watched closely, we saw something different. We saw a gargantuan, 300+ lb. man-child, jumping over other, mere mortal 300 pounders, to block a seemingly meaningless kick, in a game that had long since been decided.
But to him, it wasn’t just another kick, but a statement. It was a statement that the hopes of an SEC title, playoff berth and National Championship aren’t gone either.
As it turns out coach, you were right: The Alabama dynasty isn’t dead and buried and gone, but very much alive.
And with that, I’d like to truly apologize for every mean thing I may have written or said.
Boy was I wrong. But I do hope I’m right about one thing: That I’ll see you in Glendale later this winter.
All the best, and promise to write again soon.
Your new pal,
Aaron Torres is a contributor to Outkick the Coverage and FOXSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres, Facebook or e-mail at ATorres00@gmail.com.
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