Alabama is the first program to play in three straight national championship games since Florida State did it from 1998-2000. The Crimson Tide has 15 players who played in the first two games who are on the roster and healthy for tonight’s game.
“It’s pretty special,” said left guard Ross Pierschbacher, who will start his third straight championship game. “Not a lot of people can say that. That’s why you come to Alabama.”
Four of those 15 players are expected to make their third straight start in the championship. On top of that, 11 of those players are juniors. They could start four straight national championship games if they choose to return for their senior seasons and Alabama can return to the championship.
Three straight national championship games is beyond even the high expectations that players have when they sign with the Crimson Tide.
“I knew Alabama was a championship caliber team when I came here, but I didn’t think we’d go to back-to-back-to-back national championship games,” defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick said. “We have a great team, great players, great coaches, so I’m not surprised we did. It’s just an honor and a blessing.”
Alabama’s coaching staff has seen significant turnover during those three years. Running backs coach Burton Burns and outside linebackers coach Tosh Lupoi are the only coaches who have been on-field assistants on Nick Saban’s coaching staff for all three championship games, though several off-field staffers have remained during that period. Strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran and head athletic trainer Jeff Allen, both members of Saban’s original staff in 2007, are part of that group.
The championship experience has also shown players both sides of the game. Those players have felt what it’s like to win and to lose.
“One is the best feeling I’ve ever had in my entire life and one is arguably the worst I’ve ever had in my entire life,” Pierschbacher said.
Played in all 3 games (*denotes 3 straight starts)