Nick Saban does it again….. His 100th career victory as the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide football program (14-1) on Monday night resulted in the school’s 16th national championship. The 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship is ‘Bama’s fourth title in the last seven seasons, the fifth career title for Saban, the eighth championship for the Southeastern Conference since 2006, and only the second championship to be decided in this format. But this time it wasn’t easy. If you may recall, the Tide made into last year’s playoffs as well but only to be eliminated by the red hot Ohio State Buckeyes who went onto win the first ever CFP Championship.
After making the necessary offseason adjustments, Alabama had to overcome an early season loss to Mississippi -which sent the Tide faithful into a brief state of panic- and navigate a tough SEC to get back into the playoff for the second straight season. From there, Saban had to guide his team past a streaky Michigan State team in the Cotton Bowl semifinal before taking on one of the best Clemson Tigers squads (14-1) in college football history. When Alabama and Clemson took the field against one another in Glendale, Arizona on Monday night, we were treated to a back-and-forth, offensive shootout that almost came down to the wire. In the end, ‘Bama hung on for the 45-40 win and raised the trophy in celebration. Here are the top five reasons that pushed Alabama to victory…..
5. Coach Saban
Look, he’s already solidified his place in the Hall of Fame. And yes I do hear the cries of those who are tired of hearing, seeing, and reading about Alabama Football. But let’s face it, Nick Saban is exactly the type of coach that every program wishes they could have. His leadership skills, dedication, drive, track record, and reputation are second to none. He’s one of the best recruiters in the history of the game.
His ability to game plan, scout, teach, and manage are on par with many of the coaching greats. He holds every one accountable for their actions, you never anything negative about his program whether it be on the field, off the field, or in the classroom, and he always seems to have some of the best assistant coaches at his disposal. In this age of recruiting violations, academic scandals, and other various forms of cheating and rule breaking, Saban is the gold standard in today’s game.
4. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin
After his brief stint as the head coach at Tennessee and after his miserable tenure running the program at Southern California, Kiffin has found a place to belong at Alabama. During these playoffs the Crimson Tide has scored a combined 83 points, and they’ve accumulated a total of 913 yards. And the best part about it is Kiffin does it with simple, basic, pro-style football. Kiffin doesn’t run a complicated spread or a complex option offense, nor does call 90 pass plays per game. He simply takes the strengths of the talent he has on the field, combines it with his knowledge of the game, and then puts it all together to find holes and weaknesses in opposing defenses.
Michigan State and Clemson were two of the best defenses in all of the Football Bowl Subdivision during the 2015 season, that just goes to show you the type of football mind that Saban has as his right hand man.
3. Senior quarterback Jake Coker
No. 14 has been efficient, consistent, accurate, and poised. And those are all of the qualities that you need out of your starting quarterback. During these last two games Coker has completed 41-of-55 pass attempts for 621 yards, four touchdowns, no sacks, and most importantly no turnovers. His completion percentage during the CFP has been over 70 and his passer rating has been over 160. It also helps that his offensive line has kept him upright against two solid defensive lines.
2. Alabama’s Defense
The Crimson Tide defense turned Clemson into a one man show and it worked in their favor. Sure Tigers sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson accounted for 478 of Clemson’s 550 total yards, and yes he was responsible for four touchdowns, but that was the plan. They held every other Clemson player at bay for the most part and dared Watson to beat them on his own, edge goes to Alabama.
1. Riding the wave of Derrick Henry
Alabama’s junior running back showed just why he was named the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner back in December. Coach Kiffin gave Henry the ball early and often. He finished the game with 36 carries for 158 yards and three touchdowns. Henry was the first player to score in this game when he turned in a 50-yard run half way through the first quarter. Henry had already gained 132 yards by halftime. He could be the first running back taken in the NFL Draft in April.
They’re celebrating in Tuscaloosa once again, which only means even higher expectations for 2016.