Nick Saban thinks idea of SEC being a one-horse race for Alabama is 'ridiculous'

When you've won three straight SEC titles and a national championship in the last three years while currently holding the No. 1 ranking three weeks into the season, you can justifiably be called a juggernaut.

Although don't refer to Alabama that way to coach Nick Saban's face, because he's having none of it.

Saban joined Taylor Zarzour and Greg McElroy on "The First Team" on SiriusXM and shot down the notion that the SEC is a one-horse race in 2017.

Saban went on to, somewhat calmly, sound off on how silly preseason rankings are in a sport like college football that features so much turnover year-to-year, and pointed to his opponent this weekend -- 3-0 Vanderbilt -- as proof that the name on the front of the jersey matters a lot in September. 

"I most certainly think that the team we're playing this weekend based on what they've done this season and the way they've played, that they should be in the Top 25," Saban said. "I think, if you have a reputation, you benefit from that early on based on how people vote and how people like you."

The truth of the matter is that, with a small sample size, it's hard to determine what problems teams face are fluky, and which ones could potentially de-rail seasons. 

While Alabama's success certainly plays a part in the narrative that it's a one-horse race, it hasn't exactly proven that its pressing issues it tried to address in the offseason have been resolved. As CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd noted this week, the defense didn't exactly shine last week against Colorado State. Offensively, quarterback Jalen Hurts hasn't exactly shown the ability to stretch the field deep on a consistent basis. 

The difference between Alabama and everybody else is that the Crimson Tide have proven the ability to navigate around their flaws, while the rest of the conference seems to be burdened by theirs. 

Auburn's offense looked woefully inept and quarterback Jarrett Stidham was running for his life in a loss at Clemson, Texas A&M blew a 34-point lead in the final 18 minutes in a loss at UCLA, Arkansas got worked at the line of scrimmage in a loss at home against TCU and Florida seemed to forget how to block in a loss in Week 1 to Michigan

That, coupled with an ultra-talented team like LSU getting smoked by 30 at Mississippi State, Tennessee's inability to establish itself as anything more than just average and the sudden realization that typical doormats Mississippi State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt might actually be competitive makes it a legitimate question.

But it doesn't have to stay this way, and likely won't be this way when the leaves change color. 

Feleipe Franks' last-second, game-winning heave to Tyrie Cleveland to cap of Florida's victory over Tennessee is something to build on. Auburn's two-score win over Mercer was uninspiring on the scoreboard, but Stidham's 86.5 completion percentage, Kamryn Pettway's work between the tackles and a defense that gave up just 3.67 yards per play should give Tiger fans hope. Take away fluky fumbles -- two from wide receivers and a third from wide receiver Ryan Davis on special teams -- and that's a nearly perfect game. 

Alabama is precisely 0-0 in the SEC right now. Saban understands that, while they have three nonconference wins, he's staying true to his "process" despite many already penciling in the Crimson Tide to head to their fourth straight College Football Playoff.

College Football Writer

Barrett Sallee has been a member of the sports media in various aspects since 2001. He is currently a college football writer for CBS Sports, while also hosting on ESPNU on SiriusXM Radio channel 84, the... Full Bio

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