Toll Tide: It all rounds back to Bama at SEC Media Days, but Richt comment rings of Tide fatigue even in SEC
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
Jul 18, 2013 | 3974 views |  0 comments | 46 46 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The University of Texas reportedly talked in January to the agent of Alabama head coach Nick Saban. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
The University of Texas reportedly talked in January to the agent of Alabama head coach Nick Saban. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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HOOVER --- Another SEC Media Days has ended. Alabama stands once more pre-crowned as the league’s football champion, and why not?

Six weeks out from the start of the 2013 season, what’s to say the Crimson Tide won’t become the first repeat SEC champion in the Bowl Championship Series era and win its third BCS title in a row?

Alabama coach Nick Saban’s accomplishments have entered Bear Bryant territory, so naturally the Saban-vs.-Bear question came Thursday. Not so naturally, the question came to the coach who came within five yards of denying Saban in December.

“I don’t know about that,” Georgia’s Mark Richt said during Thursday’s final day of Media Days at the Wynfrey Hotel. “Everybody has their issues. Everybody has their competition level across the board. I really wouldn’t know what it looked like back then, to be honest, to give you a good answer on that.

“But, you know, I guess we’ve had, what, seven national championships in a row here in our league? I think only two were undefeated seasons. You know, people are getting beat and still winning the national championship. LSU lost twice and won the national championship.

“I think everybody is beatable. I think some of it is, quite frankly, the way the BCS is set up. There’s some good fortune.”

So, Richt is saying Saban is a lucky beneficiary of the system?

“If Ohio State wasn’t on probation, they might have played (for the title) last year,” Richt said. “If whoever lost at the end, Kansas State lost at the end, whoever, there’s just some teams that had to lose to make that opening for us or Alabama at the end of that SEC Championship game.

“Sometimes you just hit it right. Tommy Tuberville has a team that goes undefeated (Auburn in 2004), didn’t get into the national championship game. I think there’s a little bit of fortune that happens the way the BCS has been set up in the past.”

Alabama fans already worry about SEC/Alabama/Saban fatigue outside of the league, but do we detect some within the league? Maybe just a little?

Thursday was the day for it.

Yes, we’ve heard three days of discussion about SEC commissioner Mike Slive’s impatience with NCAA reform and restructuring.

We’ve talked hurry-up offenses allegedly causing injuries, ad nauseum.

We’ve hit on disturbing player off-field issues, not to be confused with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel’s stupid Heisman winner tricks.

Come Thursday, things once again rounded back to Alabama, with the league releasing its predicted order of finish. A record 243 media voted, and the Crimson Tide received 182 first-place votes to win the SEC title.

The league also announced its preseason All-SEC team. Alabama placed 16 players on the first, second or third teams --- five more than second-place LSU.

Thursday was also Alabama’s day to meet with the record 1,239 media, and even Saban sounded fatigued of it.

“Hard to believe this is my 12th SEC Media Days, seventh at Alabama,” he said. “I hope y’all had a wonderful summer.

“For us, for me personally, it’s perfect. I had a great vacation, then I get the opportunity to come here and see 1,200 of my very closest friends all at the same time. So we appreciate that.”

Saban went on to tweak media for their 4-17 record in picking SEC champions over the past 21 years, a well-worn way to deflect expectations and gush at these proceedings.

He came into the main media ballroom after Georgia’s session. It’s uncertain whether he was aware of Richt’s tepid take on Alabama’s Bearish run, but Saban seemed to concede some luck factor.

“We’re obviously proud of what our team was able to accomplish last year and the year before, but we also learned that there’s five or six plays that sort of can define your season and make a difference in the season,” he said. “I could go back to last season and say the two-minute drive against LSU, not scoring on fourth-and-two against Texas A&M, Georgia blocking the field goal in the SEC Championship game and getting up 21-10.

“I mean, fundamentally, we didn’t execute in some of those circumstances. Some of them we did, and we benefitted from it.”

It’s all a matter of preparing players for that handful of plays, Saban said. He’s done that pretty well at Alabama, well enough for the Tide to win three of the past four BCS titles.

He’s done it well enough to make it cliché.

Count on Alabama to be a favorite, and count on fulfillment of those expectations coming down to those few plays in those two or three close games that decide everything.

Count on it this year, anyway, Richt said. The BCS era ends in 2014, and maybe those who long can benefit from a changeup in the system.

Until then, head off controversy with caveats.

“In the future, we certainly know there’s going to be at least a four-team playoff to get it started, maybe a little bit better gauge of getting the right people in that game,” Richt said. “But not to downplay anything they’ve done, that Coach Saban has done.

“They’re tremendous coaches, they develop them well, get them ready to play the big games.”

Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, jmedley@annistonstar.com. On Twitter @jmedley_star.

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