What makes college football so special and so much more fun to follow than any other sport, is that more than any other, it’s a sport where history matters. Tradition matters. Demographics matter. Politics matter. So many outside factors influence the enjoyment and consumption of college football, that to root for a team or a conference doesn’t just become about “rooting for clothes” as Jerry Seinfeld memorably and hilariously put it. You root for a tradition, almost a way of life. And despite all these other things that matter, all these outside factors that collude to make your fandom, all that matters is what happens between the lines. Who wins and who loses. Who has the most points by the time the clock strikes zero. The sport itself always wins. The game itself is always king. And that’s why every Saturday there’s at least one moment between the white lines that will mean so much, to so many people. That’s the beauty of college football.
No one exemplifies this better than Alabama-Auburn. Probably the most passionate rivalry in sports (tied with Ohio State-Michigan), and two of the most passionate fanbases in a sport and region that is defined by caring perhaps a littttttle too much about these kind of things. For a state that wouldn’t be considered even in the Top 5 of high school football talent (Florida, California, Texas, Georgia, Ohio all produce more Blue Chip players according to 24/7Sports), a team from the state of Alabama has played for the National Championship every year of the past half-decade. The annual matchup between these two teams has provided two of the greatest games of the modern era (The Chris David Return Game, the Cam Newton Comeback Game). That is remarkable. That is historic. I bring this up and write a long-winded blog highlighting this because as long as Saban and Malzahn are at the helm of these two programs, the struggle between these two titans of the sport will continue to dominate and define college football. Auburn and Alabama might not be in the National Title game every year, but they will continue to be two of the most feared teams, year in and year out, in an era I think will be defined as the State of Alabama Era (much how Florida State and The U defined parts of the 80’s and 90’s). So just enjoy it while it lasts, Roll Tide, and War Damn Eagle. Let’s get a quick projection of each of them.
I’ve long made it clear I think there will be a National Championship rematch between Florida State and Auburn this year. Malzahn is quite simply, a genius, who was able to take one of the worst teams in the SEC and within a year turn it into an offensive juggernaut. All with a fucking defensive back playing at quarterback. Do people not realize how bad Nick Marshall really was last year? Rewatch the BCS National Title; at least three throws could have been made to seal that game that 75% of SEC Quarterbacks make. The two QB gameplan in place now will allow Marshall’s feet to raise the ceiling of the offense while having a better pure thrower in Jeremy Johnson. It will work great. The Front 7 is mostly returning on defense (a must in the SEC) , so the defense should be fairly set. If there’s one Achilles heel to this team, it’d be the secondary though, where most of the replacements are being made. Still like Auburn to make the college football playoff despite not winning the SEC (with one loss to Alabama) then play for the National Championship.
I know I predicted yesterday that Ole Miss has a very, very, very, very good chance to upset Alabama in their matchup this year. Please don’t think that means I don’t tremendous respect for Alabama. I know that they’re returning the 3rd-least amount of starters in the SEC. I know they’re losing their most critical defensive player in HaHa Clinton-Dix. I know AJ McCarron is gone (who I still think was really overrated and a total system guy, but still), and there are a lot of replacements to be at the offensive line. I don’t care. Alabama has proven themselves to a point where there’s no further explanation necessary for picking them to go undefeated other than a shrug and “It’s Alabama”. Do I think they’ll be undefeated? No. I do think they’ll come damn close though. I do think they’ll play in the SEC Championship game. And I do know that there is no team I’d rather face less in a do-or-die playoff game than a Nick Saban’s Tide. I like Alabama to win the SEC this year. (Have I not made my official playoff prediction yet by the way? It’s Alabama-Auburn-Florida State-Ohio State, with Ole Miss being my dark horse contender to replace one of the SEC teams).