Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney have built Alabama football and Clemson into the nation’s top two programs. The two men are similar in several ways.
Once again Alabama football and Clemson square off to determine which team is the best in the land. The storyline is not well received by all. National media and social networks are filled with complaints about the repetitive contest. So much negative chatter clouds what should be seen as clear facts.
The Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson are the two best teams and whichever teams are the third, fourth and fifth best are a long way behind. Nearly lost among the clamor over the Playoff format and cratering ticket prices is the fact the CFP has again done a superb job matching up the two best teams.
The main job of the CFP Committee is making the National Championship game a match between the top two teams. The Committee has performed well, though it needs to be remembered the BCS was close to equally effective.
The 2019 matchup features not only the two best teams, but it also has the two best programs in college football. Thanks to Aaron Torres for these stats for the last four seasons.
- Alabama football and Clemson are 109-7 over the four seasons.
- Take away the three games against each other and the four-year records for the two programs are 106-4.
Detractors will attempt to devalue those records with bogus strength of schedule arguments. Don’t be distracted. The Crimson Tide and Clemson are the two best programs in CFB.
Those who follow CFB history know the schools have close connections through coaches going back many decades. Don’t know the history, check it out here. No current living coaches owe more to Alabama football than do Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban. Nick Saban came to Tuscaloosa with a fully formed plan for an Alabama football rebuild. It is unsurprising how often old-timers describe how Saban re-formed the Tide, as similar to how Paul Bryant re-formed the Tide decades ago.
Dabo has not had success equal to Saban but what Clemson has achieved is impressive. Dabo has built the Tigers on solid fundamentals with talented athletes playing hard-nosed football. It is no coincidence the Clemson defensive lines have come to rival and maybe this season even surpass those at Alabama. Dabo, like Nick, knows championships require winning the line of scrimmage. As did Dabo’s coach, Gene Stallings and Gene’s coach, Paul Bryant.
Outwardly Dabo and Saban appear to be quite different. Dabo is often gushing with enthusiasm. Nick is far more measured, some say controlled to a fault. Dabo is not afraid to show his true emotions while Nick is guarded much of the time. Dabo is known as a players’ coach and Saban is considered to be uncompromising.
There are many similarities between the two men. Both earn sincere respect from their players. Both men work hard to build successful men rather than just successful football players. Saban is a devout Catholic. Dabo is a vocal man of faith. And both are steadfast in trusting their own instincts while remaining open to change. They are both fiercely competitive. Consistency by themselves and others is valued by both men.
It is no surprise the two have developed a friendship. They have much more to share than two south Florida beach homes. The quiet dinners to pay off bets on games go way beyond obligations. No one knows what they discuss during those dinners or the other phone calls throughout the year. What is obvious is they have found much to like in each other.
And what they have built are the two most consistent programs in college football.
Is either program near a point of diminishing returns? Nothing lasts forever but whatever happens Monday night, look for Alabama football and Clemson to be in the Playoff field again next year.