They overwhelm opponents today and fill foes’ heads with nightmares about tomorrow. We expect dynasties to run out of gas after a burst because the pedal-to-the-metal approach only lasts so long. But Alabama players and coaches fired a warning shot this season to all who long for their dominance to disappear.
The Crimson Tide machine hums on cruise control.
And the scariest part for everyone from Seattle to south Florida is this: Roll Tide has began to reload.
Weren’t the past four months supposed to unfold differently? In September, it wasn’t crazy to envision Alabama shuffling back a few steps after there were so many big strides forward since Nick Saban captured the first of four national crowns as the Crimson Tide’s coach during the 2009 season.
Quarterback Jake Coker was gone. So was linebacker Reggie Ragland. Running back Derrick Henry left Tuscaloosa to earn major NFL coin with the Tennessee Titans and hang out in the Heisman House.
But Saban fixed up another Frankenstein faster than a Toyota plant can pump out a Corolla.
For Alabama’s rivals, the horror show runs on loop.
Recent developments highlight the fright for Alabama’s foes that should continue in 2017 and beyond. Last Saturday, running back Bo Scarbrough — a sophomore! — rocked Washington for 180 yards and 2 touchdowns on 19 carries in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Then the switch of offensive coordinator from Lane Kiffin to Steve Sarkisian — call it the Former Trojan Two-Step — just one week before the national championship game against Clemson made it seem the Crimson Tide handled a potentially damaging situation with the worry of a lion facing a gerbil.
Challenges, questions … and Alabama answers
It remains to be seen if Alabama will prolong its reign of pain. Clemson will be motivated to pop the cork on a title experience of its own in Tampa. Then next fall, perhaps someone within the SEC will crawl from the Crimson Tide’s shadow to create a few sweat buds in Tuscaloosa. Goodness knows the conference could use a few challengers to swing back at King Crimson Tide.
Yes, there’s always talent to replace. Yes, Sarkisian’s development as the man at the switches of Alabama’s offense will be worth watching. And yes, each season forces a dynasty to prove itself all over again.
But what about the enigma facing others within the SEC and anyone else who must stare down Alabama during the climb toward the sport’s summit?
When will the opening come?
Where’s the weakness?
How will the run end?
There doesn’t appear to be a dead-end sign on the Crimson Tide’s path. In fact, Alabama figures to have fewer question marks next season than in the early stages of the fall left behind.
Load, win, reload
Scarbrough is a stud. Quarterback Jalen Hurts shows massive potential as a freshman. Sarkisian is a proven offensive mind, and it’s possible that he will become a better fit within Saban’s plan than Kiffin grew to be. Alabama must replace major skill on the defensive line, but who questions the Crimson Tide’s ability to plug-and-play star talent at key positions?
The true test of any dynasty is its ability to dominate today while maneuvering into a position to control tomorrow. That’s no simple task, especially given the challenges of the modern landscape. But Saban’s Alabama morphed into a monster that routs rivals in vision, execution and preparation.
This season is a four-month study in how the machine remains well oiled and appears healthier than ever. That’s a testament to many things: focus, discipline and a burning desire to remain on top of college football’s food chain.
Time will reveal how long Alabama’s run will last. But right now, it seems ridiculous to bet on it ending soon.