For Nick Saban, the Alabama football coach, finding the perfect team to play in his two-game gauntlet is a long, tough and often frustrating process.
Saturday’s game at perennial SEC power Georgia is the final obstacle standing between Alabama and a run through the college football playoffs. But some may remember a few years ago when Alabama lined up against Clemson, the top seed in the 2011 playoffs, to no avail.
“That’s a team we know all about,” Saban told the media after Alabama’s Game Day appearance that year. “And they’re a heck of a football team.”
But in retrospect, “all about” may not have been what the Crimson Tide really needed.
After losing to No. 4 Clemson, Alabama was shut out by No. 5 Arkansas the following week, in a game that seemed sure to do long-term damage to the Tide’s postseason hopes.
That Alabama suffered that kind of an “all about” loss last year should be something of a reminder to even the most obsessive fans who set out to pick the last game for an Alabama team to play.
So who will coach Alabama on Saturday?
First and foremost, it will be Saban. He has taken responsibility for preparing his team to play Georgia and his best defensive players were on hand Thursday to get into their playbook.
“The offensive and defensive coaches work pretty well together,” Saban said. “I know they’re excited about it and we’ll have good preparation.”
This is something of a stubborn Saban. In August, when asked if he had considered coaching in the NFL in 2019, he said, “Never considered it. Not on my mind. Never said it in the past, so it is not on my mind.”
Some of that will surely change.
This preseason, Saban said that as Alabama limped toward the end of last season, he asked his assistants about the possibility of coaching the Crimson Tide again next season. They led him to believe that it was something he should pursue, even if he thought there was a better chance of winning the Super Bowl.