Nick Saban’s Philosophy Has Alabama Vied For Another National Title
ARLINGTON – Alabama head coach Nick Saban will often speak of philosophy as much as football. He can be an analyst of the human condition, and as a football coach for thousands of players over the course of nearly 50 years, the 70-year-old has had many examples to observe.
For this week’s philosophy lesson, Saban spoke about the concept of success and how difficult it is to avoid complacency when people are faced with it. It’s a challenge – a luxurious one at that – Saban and the Crimson Tide are used to taking on. This experience was on display on Friday.
Alabama – the nation’s top-ranked team, once again – hosted the first team in the Group of Five to the college football playoffs with a dominant performance, beating Cincinnati 27-6 in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at the stadium AT&T.
“I’m really, really proud of our team, of our players,” said Saban. “I think they were very competitive in this game tonight. It was a tough game. We knew it would be a tough game. The guys have shown a lot of resilience this year to be able to have the opportunity to make it to this game. They showed a lot of resilience in the game tonight to overcome adversity.
Alabama senior running back Brian Robinson Jr. couldn’t find the end zone, but he had the biggest impact for the Crimson Tide. Robinson, the offensive player of the game, finished with 26 carries for a high of 204 yards.
Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. had two sacks and was named defensive player of the game.
Cincinnati scored goals in the first possession of each half but couldn’t find the end zone. It was Cincinnati’s lowest score since a 42-0 loss to Ohio State in 2019.
Friday’s game resolved one of the biggest themes of the college football season: Did a Group of Five team deserve to play in a Final Four normally reserved for the powers of the Power Five? For Saban, the answer is clear.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that they belong to the playoffs,” Saban said. “I think they gave us everything we could handle.”
The Crimson Tide will now head to the National Championship for the sixth time in seven years, seeking their sixth title in the past decade.
Friday’s semifinal game also marked a full moment for Alabama. The Crimson Tide began this calendar year by beating Notre Dame at AT&T Stadium, 31-14, on New Years Day. The following week they dominated Ohio State for the national championship.
On Friday, the last night of 2021, Alabama beat the Bearcats for a berth in the national championship.
Getting to the national championship has become almost inevitable for Alabama in the CFP era, but for this year’s team there were challenges. The Big One for Reigning National Champions, According to Saban and Co .: How to Handle Success.
The effort did not start as well as it could have. Alabama lost Oct. 9 to a team from Texas A&M with a backup quarterback who had just suffered two losses. The loss to Texas A&M, according to Alabama players and coaches, was a turning point.
“We don’t want to ever feel that pain again,” Robinson said earlier this week.
Robinson was one of the main reasons they didn’t feel that pain on Friday.
From the first practice, two things were clear: Alabama would often look to Robinson and Cincinnati would fight him.
Robinson had six carries in the game’s opening practice for 37 yards. Alabama threw once on the first drive: an eight-yard touchdown pass from Bryce Young to Slade Bolden.
That was the recipe for the whole game. Robinson would carry the Crimson Tide onto the field. Young would cap the player with a touchdown. Young, the Heisman Trophy winner, finished with three touchdowns, one interception and 181 passing yards.
There were times when Alabama’s attacking success fizzled out, but it wasn’t necessarily on its own. The Cincinnati defense was touted as a challenge for an Alabama offense without wide receiver John Metchie III, and the Bearcats backed him up.
Ultimately, however, Alabama overcame it. Saban said the team have shown a lot of resilience. He said his senior running back could be the embodiment of that.
Robinson, a native of Tuscaloosa, had to wait his turn in a talented Alabama backyard. He was patient. In other words, his resilience was constant and it paid off this season with a starring role.
“I literally put all my heart into it,” said Robinson. “This university, this team in the locker room, I don’t want to let my brothers down. I never want to let my coaches down. I don’t want to drop my university. I give everything I have, and it is a reflection of all the hard work that we have put in.
After the game was over and the trophy was awarded, an enlarged, Velcro-covered version of the Alabama logo was presented to Robinson. The backdrop to the scene was the four-team installment of the CFP. Robinson took the logo and stuck it where it belonged: the next stage of support, the national championship.
In a way, the Cotton Bowl victory represented a perfect case study for Saban’s next philosophy lesson on managing success. He already had material for his lecture on his dangers, as evidenced by Alabama’s early-season loss to Texas A&M. After Friday he can show what it looks like when this lesson is learned.
“We can’t relax now,” Anderson said. “Right now is not the time to relax. We have to enjoy this game for 24 hours and resume our activities.
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