Somehow, the overarching matter of the seventh College Football Playoff National Championship has gotten lost. It's not Ryan Day's youth, Justin Fields' health or Alabama's Triplets. It's not even Nick Saban's daughter.
It's Saban himself. Before Saban started making his run with Alabama, there was a hint of parity in college football. Since then, we must start the season by penciling in Bama and figuring it out from there.
History awaits him once again. This is Saban's second shot at passing Bear Bryant for most national championships. Whether you think Saban is the best team sports coach ever, winning title No. 7 would pretty much solidify that fact.
In fact, it might place the record out of reach. Think of it as the football version of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak or Wayne Gretzky's 92-goal season.
Bryant won six championships at Alabama from 1961-79. Saban has won his six in 15 years (2003-17). The difference between the two -- and really everyone else -- is age. Saban is 69 and shows no signs of slowing down. Bryant died at age 69 just weeks after his 25th season with the Crimson Tide.
Few if any coaches have had such success this late in life. I wrote a few years ago about Saban perhaps being the greatest team coach of all time. Better than his buddy Bill Belichick, Red Auerbach, Vince Lombardi or hockey's Scotty Bowman.
Unlike Wooden, Saban not only won his championships in the strongest conference, he won them during his league's strongest period. If Alabama wins Monday night, an SEC team will have won 11 of the last 15 national championships. Bama has been the standard but not the only one in the Strength Everywhere Conference. Florida (twice), Auburn and LSU also won titles since 2006.
If those championships are the first sentence of his obituary, Saban's ability to change offensive philosophies should be the second. No championship coach has so radically changed his thinking to stay on top. In 2014, Saban had decided it was an if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-'em world. Before that year, Alabama ran the ball with a game manager quarterback and played defense.
Saban got a taste of the future when Johnny Manziel beat the Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium in 2012. Auburn's Nick Marshall in the Kick Six game in 2013 was another reminder the effectiveness of dual-threat quarterbacks. Blake Sims, a converted running back became quarterback breaking the program's total offense record in 2015. That year, he passed for more yards than Dak Prescott.
Saban saw the future. Before it was fashionable, Saban started landing game-breaking wide receivers. Julio Jones was the first with a breakout season in 2010 when Alabama was still running the ball and playing defense. Since that year, there have been 1,000-yard seasons by the likes of Amari Cooper, Calvin Ridley, Jerry Jeudy and DeVonta Smith. That's not including Jaylen Waddle.
Mind-numbing consistency. Beginning with the 2019 season opener (42-3 over Duke), Bama scored at least 35 points in the next 24 games. That's the longest streak in college football history, and it just ended in the Rose Bowl semifinal with the Tide scoring "only" 31 against Notre Dame.
Plug and play coordinators have been a consistent feature at Alabama recently. Since Lane Kiffin became the Tide's first offensive coordinator of the spread era, the list has included Brian Daboll, Mike Locksley and Steve Sarkisian. Kiffin, Locksley and Sarkisian have become head coaches since their time at Alabama.
The 2017 recruiting class was also remarkable. That year, Saban landed arguably the best offensive player in Alabama history. He literally went halfway around the world to Hawaii just to get Tua Tagovailoa, who accounted for 97 career touchdowns.
Those players who didn't leave early for the NFL Draft are seniors now. Out of that class came at least 14 starters, a Heisman Trophy winner (Smith), a Doak Walker winner (running back Najee Harris) a Davey O'Brien winner (quarterback Mac Jones) and an Outland Trophy winner (left tackle Alex Leatherwood). How's that for an all-time offense?
This is the backdrop for championship No. 7 for a man 69 years young.