FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- This is about as unplugged as Nick Saban gets.
Virbrant in a off-white, almost-pink dress shirt and gray suit, smiling often and cracking a few jokes, the often-robotic Saban was clearly reveling in his third national title in four years when addressing the media Tuesday.
In fact, he places those four championship rings (including one from his LSU days) “on the coffee table for the recruits to look at,” he quipped.
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Recruits had better get a bigger coffee table. Maybe that's in part why Saban was smiling the morning after a thunderous 42-14 victory over Notre Dame in Sun Life Stadium.
This run might not be over any time soon.
“If you appreciate something and understand what it took, you may be more committed to what it takes in the future in order to be successful,” Saban said.
And so the winning cycle begins.
Consider these factors for a potential three-peat.
*Alabama just won a championship in blowout fashion despite this being arguably the worst of Saban's three title teams with the Tide. This wasn't the same dominant defense of 2009, which was laced with NFL talent. Saban says this group overrachieved.
*Next year's team could be better. Two of Saban's best players, quarterback A.J. McCarron and linebacker C.J. Mosley, will return. The offensive line loses a few parts but is still loaded with talent. T.J. Yeldon is ready to shoulder the load should Eddie Lacy leave for the pros. The NFL defections aren't as crippling as in years past.
*The schedule is manageable. At Texas A&M on Sept. 14 will be tough. But Alabama gets an LSU team ravaged by NFL departures at home. It doesn't play Florida, Georgia or South Carolina. Tennessee and Auburn are down.
*The Tide has four of the country's last five No. 1 recruiting classes.
The NFL questions will never go away because of the way Saban lied about the Alabama job six years ago. But as long as Saban keeps the NFL on a leash, he'll remain motivated at Alabama. Just look at how he addressed the topic of NFL intrigue during his press conference.
He gave several reasons why the pros are no longer for him. He doesn't like the parity, the rules, the limitations on drafting players as opposed to recruiting whomever he likes.
He couldn't affect players the way he wanted in the NFL.
That could all be something nice to say when put on the spot, to be sure. But he had quite the laundry list against the NFL.
“I kind of learned from that experience that maybe this is where I belong,” Saban said. “And I'm really happy and at peace with that.”
Then he added, “I don't know why I keep talking about it.”
Texas A&M, Florida, Oregon -- these are teams that might not be too far away from catching Alabama. Notre Dame is a national power again but needs to go back to the lab, build a few Eddie Lacys. Ohio State could slide into the title game with another 12-0 season, but who knows whether the Buckeyes will be physically ready. After all, this Notre Dame team would have a good shot to beat them.
Until another team figures out the Tuscaloosa equation, Saban will keep showering in blue.
“I've never been able to anticipate the Gatorade bath,” he said.