Success begets success.
Nick Saban changed college football, and ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit believes it was for the best. The University of Alabama head coach sets the standard, and each year, the bar is higher to motivate other teams. He makes the game better.
“I kind of have a different spin on Nick Saban going to Alabama,” Herbstreit said Wednesday during a teleconference. “I think him going to Alabama has been incredible for college football. I think having Alabama on about their 10th year of a dynasty has been outstanding to college football.”
It has indeed been a decade since Saban took over the Crimson Tide. He’s entering his 11th season now with no plans of stopping anytime soon.
Right now, Saban’s latest challenge is preparing for Alabama’s season opener against Florida State on Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. in Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The game has already been dubbed the Greatest Opener of All Time. Herbstreit will call the game on ABC.
Alabama debuted as No. 1 in the first AP poll. Florida State is No. 3. There’s never been a top-three matchup to start a season. The closest games were No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 UCLA in 1986 and No. 1 Nebraska vs. No. 4 Penn State in 1983.
“It almost feels like a national championship game Week 1,” Herbstreit said. “I think what’s funny to me is if the game is competitive, and no matter who wins, the loser is going to drop one or two sports in the poll. They’re still right in the position to do whatever they need to do.”
In fact, Herbstreit recently revealed his predictions for this season’s college football playoffs. He expects Alabama, Ohio State, USC and Florida State to make it and, ultimately, the Buckeyes defeat the Crimson Tide to win it all.
Five of the last eight national championships have been won by either Alabama (four) or Florida State (one). They are the two winningest programs since 2010.
“It’s not just Nick Saban,” Herbstreit said. “The culture he creates is the older players police the team, and that’s a big part of why they practice as consistently as they do, why they never become complacent, is the older players buy in. I’m excited to see this next wave of older players and see if they can kind of continue that mantra that Rolando McClain and company started back in ’08 and ’09.”
Herbstreit could easily see defensive backs Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison become leaders. Linebackers Rashaan Evans and Shaun Dion Hamilton, back from an injury, could also step up. All defense, considering the Crimson Tide lost six defensive starters to the draft last season.
Even with that, Herbstreit isn’t nervous about the loss of talent and size. There’s always a player ready next in line: defensive linemen Quinnen Williams, Raekwon Davis and Da’Ron Payne, and the names mentioned before. Herbstreit doesn’t see there being any issues rebuilding.
Oh, and Herbstreit has no doubt: This is quarterback Jalen Hurts’ team.
“I look forward to every week, no matter who they’re playing, because Alabama never seems to take a week off,” Herbstreit said. “I look forward to seeing who they plan and can they take Alabama’s best shot, and can somebody compete with Alabama? Can somebody sneak up and get Alabama?”