Nick Saban, who, at least on the field and in the recruiting world, is probably as responsible as anyone in college football for the sport being top-heavy at this moment, is concerned about competitive balance.
“There is no competitive sport anywhere that doesn't have guidelines on how they maintain some kind of competitive balance,” Saban said during his time on the SEC Media Day podium on Tuesday at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. “I think that's important to college football. I think it's important to fans. That's why they have rules in the NFL where you have a salary cap, you have difficult schedules if you have a successful season, you draft later if you have a successful season, you draft early if you have an unsuccessful season. All these things are created so there is competitive balance, which is great for the game and it's great for fans. Name, image and likeness (NIL) is not an issue for us at Alabama. Our players I think did better than anybody in the country last year.”
Saban was responding to a question about NIL, which is certainly the warmest hot-button topic in college athletics, particularly college football. At this point, no one has a definitive answer on how to handle the matter, but everyone has an opinion.
One clear thing, though, is Alabama is the national championship favorite, especially with the motivation of last year’s loss to Georgia. Defensive back Jordan Battle said his first reason for returning was to get the national championship back. Will Anderson Jr. said the 2021 season was not successful because it didn’t end with a national championship win.
“The biggest goal for our team is always to win the National Championship, and we didn’t meet that goal last year,” Anderson said. “All the blood, sweat, and tears that we put into a season is towards getting to the National Championship and winning it, and last year we got there and we did not finish the way we wanted to.”
Saban seemed to temper those expectations, at least publicly.
“As we always do, it's kind of like here we go again in making predictions about how young people, adolescents, will perform in the future,” Saban said. “So that's why we play the games, that's why we have a season, so that we can sort of see how we grow and develop, how the team develops, sort of all the things you need to develop on a team, the togetherness, the positive energy and attitude, people being responsible for their own self-determination, the work, preparation, ability to overcome adversity, pride in performance that allows the team to play with the consistency you need to be successful for the entire season, especially in the SEC, which is a very challenging league.”
Undoubtedly it helps to have the best offensive player and top defensive player in the nation when building toward a national championship. Quarterback Bryce Young threw for 4,872 yards with 47 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy and Anderson is a generational talent at defensive end. The 6-foot-4, 243-pound Anderson had 101 tackles and 17.5 sacks.
“We've had some great impact players, but never one on offense, one on defense, of the caliber that these guys have been able to play on a consistent basis,” Saban said. “But I think probably bigger than that is the impact that they have on the players around them. These guys set a great example. They're players that other people on our team can emulate in a positive way because of the example that they set. These guys are very serving to their teammates in terms of they really do care about helping other people for their benefit.”
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