|Thanks to 'The Process' he's put in place at Alabama, there's little argument that Nick Saban has things rolling at Alabama. (US Presswire)|
There was a point, sometime around halftime, when it became remarkably apparent how similar
Baylor, the perennial doormat, similar to one of the most prestigious college football programs in the country? Yes, I'll be the one to make the comparison. But it's not without reasoning, even if some might think I have lost my senses. I'm not comparing each product on the field, but how each has found a way to move on from the past in 2012.
Against solid, but likely overmatched, opponents during Week 1, both schools turned in results that were only mildly surprising in just how large the margin of victory was. The real story, on the surface and below it, appeared to be how neither managed to lose a step after departures many considered to be deep and worrisome. Without a Heisman winner behind center, the Bears' starting offense looked like its normal quick-strike self while cruising to an easy 59-24 win. The Crimson Tide was replacing seven key starters from one of the best defensive units in the game's history and a stud running back, but still managed to make
|There wasn't much of a drop off with Baylor in their first game of 2012. (US Presswire)|
"I think we're a tough football team," said Baylor coach Art Briles. "We're a team that knows how to win, that believes they're going to win and that can certainly play in spurts with some pretty dynamic qualities on both sides of the ball."
Coming off, by any measure, the most successful season in school history, many wondered if the Renaissance on the Brazos could continue in Waco without Robert Griffin III. Quarterback
The Bears were the perennial homecoming opponent and frequently one of the worst BCS teams in the country. They celebrate the 1949 Dixie Bowl win on the outside of Floyd Casey Stadium because, well, there's not much else to put up. All that seemed to change when Briles came on board and brought with him a different philosophy than past coaches -- one the players, fans and staff have bought into.
"It goes to show that nothing happened when (RG3) left. That's a big thing for our offense to show, that we're still the same offense and we're going to put points on the board," Florence said. "I learned a lot from Griff and he's done a lot for our program but I think it goes to show that our coaches are recruiting great players. Griff's done a lot for us but just because he leaves, it doesn't mean that anything happens here. We keep rolling."
The same was true up the road in Dallas, where many came in with questions about Alabama and left questioning how anybody should have ever doubted the program. Most pointed to the "step back" the team took after winning their first title under Nick Saban when they went 10-3 in 2010. This season seemed different coming in with those seven replacements starters all seeing significant time last year, and plenty of five-stars once again making an early appearance on the two-deep chart.
But there was still some doubt. Replacements for NFL Draft picks just don't grow on trees but maybe, just maybe, they do in Tuscaloosa.
"The expectation that we have and the standard we want to play to in this business or in sports is about who you are," Nick Saban said. "It's good to look good. It's good to wear the jersey, but it's the guy in it and the character that you have and who you are that probably makes the biggest difference."
At Alabama, Saban has created roles for every single position in the offense and on defense, and simply goes about finding the right players to fit each one. He made it a point to say Saturday night that the staff doesn't pigeonhole anybody but from the quarterback (not especially tall or short, plays mistake free) to slot receiver (fast), flanker (tall, strong, fast) to defensive tackle (mammoth) and on down the line, it's about players fitting a system that has proven itself time after time. Why have the Crimson Tide become so dominant as of late? Their head coach is not only getting the right players to fit each role, but he's been bringing in the top athletes in the country to fill each spot. As I wrote after the game, there's nobody better at replacing and reloading than Saban.
That said, it's the belief in the system -- The Process -- that gives the program the edge over others.
Though Briles isn't from the same tree at Baylor, he has seemingly instilled his will upon the program in a similar manner to Saban. Oregon, under Chip Kelly, also has done the same as they, "Win the Day," over and over.
"We're just trying to do what Coach (Saban) preaches," quarterback
"Anytime Coach Saban speaks, we're all ears. Coach Saban, he definitely lets us know that this team hasn't done anything yet. We have to come out and try and find our identity as a team."
Muschamp might think about running his program a lot like Saban's -- with a better built-in talent base mind you -- but where he's struggled is that he and others have not fully bought into his belief as to how to run a program. Take the Gators offense for example, which has transitioned from Urban Meyer's spread (and the personnel to match) to one run by Charlie Weis and now Brent Pease. Prior to the opener, the coaches surprisingly announced one quarterback would play the 1st quarter and the other the 2nd before choosing who would play the rest of the game.
As they say, if you have two quarterbacks, you don't really have a quarterback.
In Gainesville, Muschamp has a good idea of what he wants to do, but until he fully embraces a philosophy that reverberates throughout every decision made regarding the program, the team might continue to struggle despite talent on the roster.
|Nico Johnson filled in for an NFL Draft pick just fine but his past expereince may be the difference in Alabama not sliding back after a title run. (US Presswire)|
It's not easy arriving at something that shapes every decision and becomes bigger than any coach or any player. Just as roles have been created, so too have staff positions and recruiting tactics. If a players departs for the NFL or a coach moves onto another job, another is brought into fill the role. Perhaps it's not a perfect match but adjustments will be made. Although it's too early to tell, it seems like the Alabama offense will be more explosive than past editions with coordinator Doug Nussmeier at the helm. The same principles -- few turnovers, a strong running game, grind opponents down -- will be present when teams face the Crimson Tide, but we might see more tailbacks, deep passes and surprises than before. Still, there's no deviation from what has been dictated from Saban.
The entire "Process" isn't something the 60-year-old coach has come up with overnight, it was accomplished with over decades of coaching for others and at different stops along the way. There were plenty of times where it didn't work perfectly despite success at
"I really appreciate the great job that our coaches have done and our organization has done to recruit," said Saban. "Everybody at Alabama recruits. Our president recruits. Our provost recruits. (Athletic director) Mal Moore recruits. Our coaches do a good job."
When I covered USC a few years ago, Pete Carroll once described how he arrived at his version of the process, which he dubbed 'Win Forever.' He always had the vision but never could find the right ingredients to make it work, recalling the story of how he wanted to beef up meals while with the Patriots but was told he couldn't give the team much more than peanut butter sandwiches from owner Bob Kraft. Once he was out of the NFL, he set about coming up with every detail to accomplish winning the way he wanted to win. Many were surprised when he got the USC job despite being a reportedly lower-tier choice by then-athletic director Mike Garrett. What Carroll did is sell him on what he believed. At USC, despite a run-in with the NCAA, the ingredients were just right for a historic run.
I'm not quite sure Carroll's successor, Lane Kiffin, has his belief system in concrete, but he's certainly bought into the ingredients that USC has provided, even if the recipe isn't quite there yet. If you've ever brought up the NCAA sanctions the school had been placed under, the youthful head coach always will circle around to the "power of
Back in the South though, as the romp against Michigan showed, this doesn't look like another 2010 version of the Tide -- hungover after a title. The players are in familiar roles and perhaps most importantly, they have plenty of experience even if several of them didn't start last season. From the star to the backups, the players and coaches are on the same page and all that's left is finding the right mix of chemistry to tweak things just right to produce another championship.
"Everybody's bought in and understands our purpose," linebacker
A scary thought.
Stat of the week
Via Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, the 17-13 loss to Michigan State was
Stats to chew on
|It took a quarter to get going but Braxton Miller looks special at Ohio State with Urban Meyer at the helm. (US Presswire)|
- 499 yards for Ohio was more than any Big Ten offense has gained vs.
-Decorated Notre Dame linebacker
- Florida will be making its 11th trip to the state of Texas in program history. The Gators have gone 1-7-2 overall with the last win coming in 1977 at
- The three
- Rice linebacker
|More on college football|
The Big Picture: Defense still rolling at Alabama
|More college football coverage|
- The current Big East schools Saturday went 2-2, with both of the losses by schools leaving (
- Saturday night represented the most first-half points for Alabama since a Georgia State game in Nov. 2010 and the most points Michigan has allowed in a half since the 2011 Gator Bowl against
- Oklahoma State set a school record for rushing touchdowns in a game (nine) versus Savannah State. That's as many or more than
- Via Coaches by the Numbers: In the 80 games Dana Holgorsen has been a head coach or offensive coordinator, his teams have scored 40-plus points 41 times (51%).
- Another good stat from old pal Brett McMurphy, the longest streaks scoring at least 30 points:
- This says it all from the Big East twitter account: Final: Youngstown State 31,
Quote of the week
"They don't have any slow dudes like they used to." - Steve Spurrier on
Tweet of the week
Thank you to all the fans for the support tonight. great win for our team!! And to F. Mayweather u wish u had 3 million back I bet— AJ McCarron (@10AJMcCarron) in reference to rumors that the boxer had placed a large bet on the Wolverines. September 2, 2012
|Marqise Lee and USC almost moved into the No. 2 spot after looking impressive against Hawaii. (US Presswire)|
6. Michigan State
7. Florida State
10. Ohio State
Where we'll be this week
I'll be at the Rose Bowl for
Leaning this Way
Florida at Texas A&M
Anytime the Gators cross the Mississippi River, all bets seem to be off. They might not have shown much on either side of the ball against
Pick: Texas A&M
The hits keep coming for the
Georgia at Missouri
This seems like a true coin-flip game and like the other former Big 12 team starting out life in the SEC, there's plenty of chips being pushed in the middle on behalf of the Tigers. Mark Richt hasn't done a great job of getting his team to play well when they travel West but, despite struggling against