Lost in the fervor of Clemson’s incredible, last-second championship game comeback is a simple truth: Alabama will bounce back from this setback just as strong, if not stronger and more determined.
That’s a scary reality, folks.
Like Palpatine’s boys in “The Empire Strikes Back,” the Crimson Tide will answer Monday night’s heart-breaker with swift, unrelenting vengeance in 2017. And, unfortunately for the SEC, Alabama is equipped with every tool it needs to steamroll the conference again en route to the College Football Playoff.
Stud at quarterback? Check.
Nick Saban’s Darth Vader wears crimson and the No. 2.
If Jalen Hurts wasn’t the best true freshman quarterback of all time, then he’ll go down as one of them. He broke the Alabama single-season rushing record for quarterbacks at age 18. Then, he capped off his tremendous dual-threat performance with a 30-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter of the Clemson game.
What did you do at 18 years old? Go to prom, drink too much and drop a few freshman year classes?
Imagine what Hurts can do with another offseason under his belt. Add in improvement as a passer and he’ll be poised to make another run at the Heisman Trophy; he sounds far too determined for that not to happen.
— Chris Kirschner (@ChrisKirschner) January 11, 2017
And say Hurts doesn’t improve for some reason. Well, in that unlikely scenario, Alabama has one 4-star freshman quarterback enrolled (Tua Tagovailoa) and another 4-star on the way (Mac Jones). Both guys will at least push Hurts even harder during practice.
Freaks at the skill positions? Check.
Big Bo Scarbrough will be back, and the world has seen the sort of bruises he can leave when healthy. Leading rusher Damien Harris and uber-talented receiver Calvin Ridley also return. Those are three major weapons coordinator Steve Sarkisian can throw at defenses next season.
Speaking of defense, there’s no reason to think Alabama will be anything less than monstrous in 2017. The unit will lose its stars, per usual, but a host of blue-chip backups stand ready to leave their legacy on another one of Saban’s legendary defenses. Defensive end Da’Shawn Hand, linebacker Christian Miller and safety Ronnie Harrison should all assume bigger roles next year.
And lest we forget: These guys have the experience of playing on a 2016 team that should go down as one of the SEC’s all-time greats.
And then, there’s Alabama’s recruiting class.
The Crimson Tide appear destined to secure a seventh consecutive No. 1 signing class in 2017, too. Provided they close on a few more of their top remaining targets, this incoming crop of prospects might be even the best Saban ever lands. Yeah.
Early enrollees alone feature a ridiculous array of elite talent: 5-star running back Najee Harris, 5-star offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, 5-star outside linebacker Dylan Moses and 5-star receiver Jerry Jeudy. All four of those guys rank top-30 nationally, and they’re joined by Tagovailoa, 4-star defensive end Isaiah Buggs (the nation’s No. 2 JUCO prospect) and offensive tackle Elliot Baker (the nation’s No. 3 JUCO prospect).
As if their coach’s high-school talent hoarding wasn’t enough, Alabama players will begin their offseason workouts nursing the awful feeling of coming up short in a legendary title game. The last time a Saban squad lost with a championship run at stake — 2014, Ohio State, College Football Playoff — the next year’s team finished what their predecessors started.
It isn’t fair.
What can SEC fans do besides shake their heads in frustration? Saban isn’t going anywhere; neither are the Crimson Tide.
As long as the status quo continues, the nation’s toughest conference will simply be an 9-game warm-up for this modern-day dynasty.