Two national championships removed from an SEC hegemony, and here we are again. The world is putting its money on the machine with laser-like precision that has been the toast of other automatons who you call co-workers. That machine is the Alabama Crimson Tide, as controlled by its monomaniacal creator, Nick Saban.
Alabama, with its followers in fervent lockstep, has been unwavering and unchanging in its ways despite what the calendar says. They play the same, old football of yesteryear, in which ball control is key and the legs of starting running backs are expensed as if they were martini lunches at SCD&P. It’s a relic of the old guard, updated with modern parts. It’s essentially an Adele album. It works, it’s successful, it’s technically flawless, but is it interesting? Nah. Not in the slightest.
You know all there is to know about Alabama. You know the game plan. You know the tactics. You know there’s gonna be run after run after run until, wait, look there goes [insert fantastic receiver here]. He’s wide open! “Wow! Wow! Wow!” Verne Lundquist will probably scream as he’s watching the telecast far enough away from Gary Danielson, telling nobody in particular why Alabama is so good. You know Alabama’s routine. What you don’t know is the Clemson Tigers of 2015.
The Clemson you know is a team that walks into the arena of a lesser opponent with everything and watches it disappear in four quarters. Success at Clemson was so fleeting in the years after Danny Ford’s 1980 national championship that college football podcast The Solid Verbal turned “Clemson” into a verb to describe the act of failing to meet expectations. So bad was the Tigers’ reputation that, despite Dabo Swinney’s success and sterling record since the start of his tenure, Clemson still fielded questions about the verb leading up to the national championship. The Tigers are a team which, despite a perfect record, no one believes will knock out college football’s Goliath.
Yet Swinney, always the steadfast and irascible youth minister, is not deterred by a church with a gigantic coffer and a wealth of history. All it takes is guts, and that’s what he asks of both his fans and players: “Bring your own guts.” After all, they managed to take down one of college football’s blue bloods in Oklahoma at the Orange Bowl by doing just that. To Swinney and the Clemson faithful, there’s no mountain high enough to stop them from reaching manifest destiny, even if that mountain has an established history of killing foolhardy believers.
At the end of all this though, is it good television? I guess it depends on what your interests are. But you’ve more or less seen this story before: the known entity against the scrappy upstart. Part of college football’s fabric in the new age has been built on the binary between new and old money. Between the populists and the elite.
Of course, I’ll sit down and watch it, as I do every year, continuing my annual tradition of muttering about how [team not Ohio State/SEC team/Alabama] is going to win. This year, however, my rooting interest is primarily sinkholes. This is due to the fact that my psyche cannot take another Alabama victory, as that will further affirm conservatism at the cost of innovative play calling and another running back’s limbs. I also can’t handle Clemson fans jamming up my Facebook feed for the next 365 days of the year screaming about how their pious, righteous, hip FCA leader is probably the best role model despite the fact that the man supports indentured servitude as a way to realize self-worth.
God, I hope a sinkhole cancels this shit, and Nick Saban finally goes to the NFL.