The cartoonish elephant that patrols the sidelines when Alabama plays is more than a mascot. It is a symbol of the weight of the expectations for the Crimson Tide every single season.
Alabama is the most SEC program in the entire SEC. In a conference that was built on top of a mountain of hype and desire, no other program is hyped up more and no other program wants to – or said better expects to – live up to the hype more than the Crimson Tide.
And somehow the pressure isn’t a problem. The Tide just keep rolling.
In the South, the only thing more consistent and predictable than Alabama football has been the humidity. Need proof? Look no farther than Alabama’s 41-23 win over Texas A&M Saturday.
Much of the media’s discussion centered around how it occurred. Alabama got back to its roots of running the football and playing defense. This is no doubt a proper storyline, but the bigger issue was not how Alabama won, but the simple fact that it won, again, and in convincing fashion over a top 10 opponent.
Alabama is now 19-7 against teams ranked in the AP top 10 since Nick Saban took over as coach of the Crimson Tide in 2007. Even more impressive than his lofty record is the fact that Saban led Alabama to two of those huge wins on the road in just this season alone.
LSU coach Les Miles has said that his team’s stadium is “where dreams go to die.” Well, if that is true, then Saban has turned dream-killing into a traveling road show. He’s 3-1 in Tiger Stadium, and each contest pitted two ranked teams.
This is why the true story of what Saban has meant to Alabama, and to the SEC as a whole, won’t ultimately be a tale for Tide fans to tell. Sure, Saban has given his fans plenty of joy, but the proper context for Saban’s influence requires an understanding of the misery he has inflicted on those programs that wish they were Alabama, or wish they had Saban.
Ask a Texas A&M fan what it feels like to think your team is finally ready to compete at the highest level only to see it humbled by an unflinching Alabama. Then the full worth of Nick Saban will be apparent. That same question could have been asked of UGA fans earlier this season, or Mississippi State fans last season, or Auburn fans almost any season.
Of course, there is still much work for Alabama to do this year. The upcoming game against LSU appears to be a real test. And for all that Alabama has accomplished, it still has not managed to win the SEC in consecutive years since Saban took the job.
That said, as the month of October slips away, Alabama, once again, finds itself in a familiar position. In a conference that is the standard bearer for all college football, the Crimson Tide are still the highly-set bar for which the rest of the SEC strives to reach. Week after week, those hopeful pretenders keep coming up short.