Alabama head coach Nick Saban has a ton of respect for Clemson and head coach Dabo Swinney.
How could he not, right?
The Tigers have beaten Saban’s Crimson Tide two of the three times they have played in the national championship game, including a 44-16 rout at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California this past January. Clemson’s 28-point margin was the largest ever against a Nick Saban-coached Alabama squad.
The Tigers’ 44 points were the second-most against Saban at Alabama (Oklahoma had 45 in the 2014 Allstate Sugar Bowl). Clemson scored the final 30 points of the game.
However, though Saban respects Clemson, he still isn’t giving the Tigers the credit for what happened on Jan. 7.
Here is what he said Wednesday at the Regions Tradition Pro-Am at Greystone Golf and Country Club in Birmingham, Alabama when he was asked his thoughts on how some in the national media have suggested Clemson has passed the Tide as college football’s best team.
“I think every year is a new year,” Saban said. “I think we learned a lot from last year and how the season ended, and I think the players have responded really well to it. Clemson has a great program, a good coach and a bunch of good players. I think we have a good program and lots of good players. I think that the key to the drill is trying to develop those players so they can play at a high level and be able to sustain it throughout the season.
“We had a tough road to hoe to get the championship game, and we just didn’t finish like we wanted to. I think there’s a lot of good things that we can learn from that.”
Yep, it was tough road for the Tide to hoe last year. Winning all 12 regular season games by 22 or more points can wear a team down. When your quarterback never plays a meaningful snap in the fourth quarter throughout an entire regular season, then I can see how that can be a mental strain on a team.
What is he talking about? Tough road to hoe? Their toughest games did not come until the SEC Championship Game and the College Football Playoff. Though Oklahoma was never within 10 points of the Tide all night in the Orange Bowl.
Before being destroyed by Clemson in the title game, Georgia was the only team that pushed Alabama all season and should have won the game. So, stop with the excuses, Nick. Clemson was the better team, and like radio personality Paul Finebaum said earlier this week on a radio show, right now, Clemson is the better program.
“I think anyone realistic has to say that Nick Saban should be regarded as the No. 1 coach in the country with six national championships, however, I do the think debate is pretty healthy about which program is the best right now,” he said. “You guys know my resume and where I’ve lived, but I don’t think there’s really a tremendous amount of debate that Clemson, right now, has the best program in America.
“It has passed Alabama in terms of appeal, showroom value and upward mobility. A lot of that is because of Saban’s age and a lot of that is because Clemson is a lot more fun to go play at than the University of Alabama.”
I understand Saban saying his team needs to be the best version of themselves and focus on only Alabama. Swinney says the same stuff and preaches it to his players, the media and his fan base. But, when Clemson gets its rear end handed to it, Swinney gives the credit where credit is due. He does not sugarcoat it. He gave Alabama credit after the Sugar Bowl loss in the 2018 CFP.
As for Saban, I just don’t think he is used to losing and most certainly isn’t used to having his butt kicked the way his team was in January.
“Last year, at the end of the year, I felt like maybe we lost our humility a little bit and didn’t really prepare in practice like we needed to, developed some bad habits and eventually got exposed by a pretty good team,” he said.
Just pretty good, Nick?