For Nick Saban, this year’s SEC Championship victory was the most gratifying.
Saban told the SEC Nation panel that this year’s victory in the SEC title game felt the best.
“Probably of all the teams I coached I wanted this one to succeed more than any,” Saban said.
Alabama rolled to its second consecutive SEC Championship with a convincing 29-15 win over Florida in Atlanta. The scoreboard didn’t indicate how dominant the Crimson Tide were. Alabama out-gained Florida 437-180 and had the ball for more than 43 minutes Saturday afternoon. Tailback Derrick Henry secured the Most Valuable Player award with 189 yards and a touchdown on 44 carries.
The Tide rolled to another conference title, but this team was in a much difference place nearly three months ago. Alabama dropped a sloppy game to Ole Miss at home and many believed the program was left for dead. Even Saban thought his team could be in trouble after losing to the Rebels in September.
“Well, because I never thought this team after the Ole Miss game, maybe would make it,” Saban explained. “The other teams I thought should. We also had some teams that I thought should that didn’t. This team I think sort of not really overachieved, but they did everything they needed to do to be what they are. I’m just really proud of them.”
Saban spoke highly of Henry, who is the overwhelming favorite to win the Heisman Trophy next weekend. Saban told the panel that Henry has carried Alabama and has only improved as the season has gone on.
“Since Kenyan Drake got hurt the guy has really taken the team on his back and he gets better as it goes,” Saban said.
Perhaps the loss to Ole Miss was the best thing that could have happened to Saban’s squad. Saban said that defeat forced his team to recalibrate and refocus.
“I think that sometimes players don’t respond very well when things go well,” Saban said. “I think sometimes when something goes bad and they have adversity they are much more willing to change and do the things that they need to do to be what they could be. I think that’s what happened to us after the Ole Miss game.”
“I saw a difference in the team and they’ve done a phenomenal job.”
Those changes propelled Alabama to its 25th conference title and almost certainly a spot in the College Football Playoff. The sky is the limit for a team that some thought would mark the end of the Saban dynasty in Tuscaloosa. Contrary to popular belief, the dynasty shows no sign of ending yet.