Countdown to No. 1: Can Alabama handle the expectations?

It’s been a fun week counting down our Top 25 teams for 2010. It will come as no surprise to you that I have Alabama at No. 1.

Yes, Alabama has to replace nine starters on defense and both of its kickers. And logically, the Crimson Tide should not be able to win a second straight national championship. Nobody has done it since Nebraska in 1994-95. But I’m putting a lot of this preseason ranking on two things:

1. Alabama has a lot of really, really good players. They played a bunch of people on defense last season and so replacing all those starters will not be as complicated as it might seem.

2. If any coach can guide his team through the mental mine field of trying to win consecutive championships, it is Nick Saban. This season, more than anything else, will be an exercise in mental toughness at Alabama. Saban and his staff do that well.

So here we go. Here is our preseason Top Five for 2010:


1. Alabama

 **–It will be a good season if: The Crimson Tide goes 12-0 for the third straight regular season and reaches the SEC championship game. If that happens they will win in Atlanta again and play for another BCS title. Alabama last won back to back national championships in 1978-79.

**–It will be a disappointing season if: They stumble on the road against Arkansas on Sept 25 or at home against Florida on Oct. 2. It’s not fair, but anything less than an undefeated regular season is going to be a disappointment.

 2. Ohio State

**–It will be a good season if: The Buckeyes win their two toughest road games at Wisconsin (Oct. 16 at night) and Iowa (Nov. 20) and get another shot at an SEC team in the BCS championship game. It looks like coach Jim Tressel is finally ready to turn quarterback Terrelle Pryor loose. If Pryor plays the way he did against Oregon in the Rose Bowl, the Buckeyes are going to be hard to beat.

**–It’s will be a disappointing season if: They are not ready to play when Miami, a very athletic team, comes to the Horseshoe on Sept. 11. Lose that one and the Buckeyes will have a tough time getting to the big game. Miami has the physical talent to go to the Horseshoe and win. My CSS broadcast partner, Brady Ackerman, has already picked the Hurricanes in that game. I’m not so sure.

3. Texas

**–It will be a good season if:  Texas successfully reshapes its offense to emphasize the run and the Longhorns win back-to-back games against Oklahoma (Oct. 2 in Dallas) and at Nebraska (Oct. 16). With Gilbert Garrett at quarterback, Texas will have a more traditional, pro-style offense. Garrett came off the bench in the national championship game against Alabama and showed that he will be a good player for the Longhorns.

**–It will be a disappointing season if: The losses of quarterback Colt McCoy (45 career wins) and defensive stars like Sergio Kindle and Earl Thomas are too much to overcome. If Texas loses to Oklahoma on Oct. 2, then they could get eliminated in the division with a loss at Nebraska. A 10-2 or 11-2 record still gets Texas in a BCS bowl.

 4. Florida

**–It will be a good season if: The Gators, despite the loss of Tim Tebow and five NFL draft choices off the defense, reach the SEC championship game for the third straight season. Over the past five years Florida has recruited as well as anyone and will plug those holes with some very talented people. Also, the pressure is off. Alabama is wearing the crown and so I expect Florida to be a much more relaxed football team than it was a year ago, when the Gators were anything but relaxed.

**–It will be a disappointing season if: New quarterback John Brantley struggles and the Gators slip up somewhere other than Tuscaloosa on Oct. 2. We simply don’t know what the defense is going to do with a bunch of new faces, including new defensive coordinators Teryl Austin and Chuck Heater. How much will Florida miss long-time DC Charlie Strong, now the head coach at Louisville?

5. Boise State

**–It will be a good season if: The Broncos go undefeated for the second straight season and are rewarded with a spot in the BCS championship game. I still think it is a long shot for Boise because to get to Glendale it means all of the champions in the Big Six conferences would have to have a loss. The real question is whether or not a 12-0 Boise would go to the BCS championship ahead of a one-loss champ from the SEC, Big Ten,  ACC or Big 12?

**–It will be a disappointing season if: With 21 of 22 returning starters, the Broncos stumble out of the gate and lose to Virginia Tech on Sept. 6 in Landover, Md.  If that happens, the Broncos can still get to a BCS Bowl, maybe even the Rose, but they won’t play in the Big Game.

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474 comments Add your comment

college football

August 21st, 2010
11:30 pm

no doubt Alabama has a great team but, Boise is loaded this year with almost everybody back. Boise is well coached and their record speaks for itself. They would do to Alabama what i think was Utah did a couple years ago…a beatdown. Watch what they do to a proud Virgina Tech team coming up.

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August 22nd, 2010
2:17 am

For everyone saying Bama won’t go undefeated, has anyone remembered that Bama has not lost a “regular” season game in 2 years? Hows that for consistency?


August 22nd, 2010
6:48 am



August 22nd, 2010
7:02 am

Saban’s had 5 great seasons in his 16 years as a coach.

80% of the time, he followed that season with a bad season. Last year, was the only time in his career Saban had 2, back to back, top 10 finishes.

Uncle G's Fan

August 22nd, 2010
7:05 am

Saban’s just not mentally tough. Too many seasons with 6 wins for example. Rare consecutive great seasons. I like folks like Phil Jackson and Wooden as icons of mental toughness. The screamers are the guys faking it. If you’re mentally tough, you don’t have to scream. The 20 Championships between Jackson and Wooden prove their approach to mental toughness crushes Saban’s.

Beast from the East

August 22nd, 2010
8:47 am

Yeah, Saban’s terrible. Bama should fire him. There are tons of Dawg fans that “know” he’s going to have a terrible year, so Bama should just get out in front of it and make an offer to Coach Richt. He’s the best in the biz. NC’s be damned!
There are quite a few “Dawgs” that are just downright crazy with this rhetoric about Saban. Obsessed much? He IS one of the top 5 college football coaches in the country. There is no debating that. If you polled his peers, I’m sure you would find that out. Show the man the respect he has earned. You don’t have to try and tear down another team’s coach to build your own up. If you do, what does that say about your coach?

irving johansen

August 22nd, 2010
9:31 am

This just in from Tuscaloosa: Big Mamma just got her season tickets and lo and behold, there’s a misspelling for MississiPi State. Isn’t there a 2nd “P” in MississiPPi? Well what do you expect for the University of alObama. Hey, isn’t that Barack Obama’s school?

I'm the real MR. College Football

August 22nd, 2010
10:08 am

i love alabama. we will win the natonal champiochip trophie again this year. ya’ll will see. I sawe it at walmarts and i hope i will get to see it again.


August 22nd, 2010
10:23 am

Nick Saban is now ranked #17 in his career winning percentage among active coaches. He’s a top 20 coach, that’s it.

Mark Richt is ranked #3 in career winning percentage among active coaches. He’s a top 3 coach.

Saban: #17
Richt: #3

Not even close.

Sure Saban’s had 4 great seasons in his 16 seasons, Richt’s had 19 great years in his 24 seasons.

Saban: # of top 10 finishes in career: 4
Richt: # of top 10 finishes in career: 19


August 22nd, 2010
10:39 am

Look at how many times Saban’s moved his family around with his 13 teams:
1972–1976 Kent State (GA)
1977 Syracuse
1978–1979 West Virginia
1980–1981 Ohio State
1982 Navy
1983–1987 Michigan St
1988–1989 Houston Oilers
1990 Toledo
1991–1994 Cleveland Browns
1995–1999 Michigan St
2000–2004 LSU
2005–2006 Miami Dolphins
2007–2009 Alabama

Average tenure at each school: 2.8 years

4 Top 10 finishes, 1 time consecutively

Mark Richt
1985-2000 FSU, 13 top 5 finishes while Richt was there, Bowden had 0 before/after Richt arrived
2001-2009 UGA, 6, top 10 finishes, 4 in a row

Average tenure at each school: 12 years


August 22nd, 2010
10:49 am

The blackout was the first slap, Kirby Smart saying “no thanks” was the second. UGA needs to concentrate on their own program and spend less time obsessing over Florida and Alabama and their respective football coaches.

Delbert D.

August 22nd, 2010
11:03 am

Richt was Bowden’s mentor? Is that a valid conclusion? Not mine.

Delbert D.

August 22nd, 2010
11:05 am

Smart is as Smart does.


August 22nd, 2010
11:30 am

If Saban’s so tough, why does he jump schools the first time adversity hits. 13 schools in 36 years? He’s mentally one of the wimpiest coaches in the game. Yells a lot, but quits on his teams even more. Absolutely ZERO mental toughness for Nick Saban. It’s odd how quickly he gives up if things don’t go his way—succumbs to a 6 or 7 win season half a dozen times, or even worse, just quits on a team over a dozen times when things get tough.

When times get tough, Saban quits on his teams, over a dozen times.

H Town WR

August 22nd, 2010
11:33 am

Tell you what, when a team Saban coaches, finishes in the top 10, 4 times consecutively, in a row, like Richt’s done at Georgia and FSU, THEN talk to me about Saban’s mental toughness. Saban can’t carry Richt’s chalk when it comes to mental toughness–tough guys win more, and do it more consistently, Richt wins more than Saban, a LOT more, and is more consistent, a LOT more.

Bama T

August 22nd, 2010
11:33 am

Bama wins the SEC again, easily—look for another big win over florida in Atlanta, then on to the BCS again, this time with a beatdown of ohio state. they will not be able to handle bama’s nasty running game. Bama–title #14—mark it down!

Toast of the Town

August 22nd, 2010
11:41 am

I think the whole “Man, he’s a mentally tough coach because he screams a lot and waves his arms around” thing goes back to Bear Bryant. But, guys like Pete Carroll, Wooden, Phil Jackson, have proven that TRUE mental toughness isn’t a physical thing, otherwise it would be called physical toughness.

Lots of sports writers get caught up in the “bad boy” image Saban tries to put out there. Please, win a higher percentrage of games than Richt or finish in the top 10 4 or 5 times in a row like Richt if he’s so “bad”. Unitl Saban or Meyer does those 2 things, Richt’s the SEC Sherriff.

If you can’t back it up, the screamers are just making hot air.

Disco Panic

August 22nd, 2010
12:07 pm

Why did Saban leave Miami after two brief (and lousy) seasons if he’s so mentally tough? He saw how average he was as a coach, he saw the team not responding to the screaming and yelling, and when adversity hit, he reverted back to what he’d already done 13 times before–quit. To give up on the Miami organization, players, and fans, that fast, tells you a lot about Saban’s mentality when it comes to adversity, of course, so do the other 13 teams he quit on. Quit, quit, quit, that’s Saban’s mantra when he faces adversity.

Doodle Bug

August 22nd, 2010
12:27 pm

I remember Saban’s 1st year at Alabama, when Miss St. beat him.

I thought “Man, we’re gonna see just how tough this guy is now, let’s see how he responds to that loss”.

He responded by on eof the biggest defeats and upsets in NCAA football history, losing the next week to…..Louisiana Monroe.

Again, to lose to Miss St. was a tough test. He should have had his team ready the next week. But they just wern’t tough enough to beat La Monroe.

Then Saban had to over-react, in his ‘bad boy’ style, to a loss by comparing it to what happened to the U.S on 9-11.

Interesting video, tells you a lot about the guy:

Tide Rising

August 22nd, 2010
12:30 pm

I see that Patrick Sulley has a whole new of handles that he’s posting under today- Thursday’s column it was Bucky, then Randy, then today he’s using disco panic, Toast of the town, H town WR, Reese, and Mickey has been his favorite handle of the day.

Dog Fan

August 22nd, 2010
12:32 pm

Anyone notice how Tide Rising always brings up “Patrick Sulley”. Could they be the same person?

Tide Going Out

August 22nd, 2010
12:39 pm

Saban’s the most OVERRATED coahc in sports.

Look at his Bowl record (5-6), look at his record against top 25 ranked teams, look at his short tenures where he wins with other coach’s players, look at his winning percentage.

Bleacher Report did a great job of pointing out why Saban’s full of hot air:


August 22nd, 2010
12:47 pm

Saban has a LONG history of rubbing people the wrong way. I think Forbes found in a survey Saban was top 10 as the most hated person in all of sports. It’s just due to to the style, he berates, he yells, he screams, he throws his arms up in the air, people just don’t think much of the guy, and thankfully, as guys like Richt have proven, you can win a lot more games than Saban without resorting to any of those hated tactics.

Tide Rising

August 22nd, 2010
1:07 pm

Saban on a % basis is slightly higher rounding off at .772 but he has 3 SEC titles and 2 BCS titles in less time 8 years in the SEC. Comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges by looking at both coach’s stints in the SEC Saban has clearly performed better with a slightly higher winning %, more sec titles(3-2), 2 bcs titles to zero for Richt, all in less time in the SEC than Richt.

Richt has a higher overall winning % than Saban because he had no coaching stints at dead end destinations like Toledo and Mich state which has all of 2 10 win seasons in its football history with one of them by Saban in 99. If you believe Richt would have a .77 winning % if he had also coached at Mich state and Toledo then you probably also believe in the tooth fairy and the easter bunny.

Tide Rising

August 22nd, 2010
1:10 pm

Dang Patrick- you added 3 more aliases in the last few minutes- all saying essentially the same points with essentially the same sentence and grammar structure? You are BUSTED!

Gran T

August 22nd, 2010
1:11 pm

Come one now, get real, if Saban’s so great, he should win EVERYWHERE, what a lousy excuse.

Here’s the career winning %:
Richt .769
Saban .700


August 22nd, 2010
1:13 pm

Tide Rising/Patrick Sulley/Beast from the East/PTC DAWG(might they all be the same person?):

Stick to the discussion and stop trolling.

Tide Rising

August 22nd, 2010
1:15 pm


I’ll just stick to my hardware. Want to come over and shine my bcs trophy?


August 22nd, 2010
1:20 pm

Saban’s trying desperately to change his image.


ESPN shows.


Then he goes and calls people “pimps” last month.

Again, I’m sure it’s just Nick trying to put out that image, hoping it will get him more wins than guys like Coach Richt, but it won’t.

Watch Saban’s image take yet another hit as he calls sports agents “Pimps”:

Tide Rising

August 22nd, 2010
1:23 pm


Just messing with ya dude. But I would hope that with all these posters above ranting and raving about saban that its just Patrick using all kinds of different handles. If not then we got about 10 dawg posters above who are all obsessed and consumed with Nick Saban.

As beast of the east said above why would so many dawg posters spend so much time obsessing over someone else’s coach? I mean really? What’s that all about?

Concentrate on having a good season and tell Patrick or all the multiple different posters if they really are a bunch of different people to quit obsessing over someone else’s coach. It just aint healthy.

Tide Rising

August 22nd, 2010
1:27 pm


I’ll just put you down as yet another of Patrick’s various aliases since it looks like you are saying the same type stuff.

As for all the ESPN specials that’s something that ESPN wanted to do. Saban can’t just tell ESPN that he wants them to do a documentary on the Bama program. Did you really think Saban has that much power?

The statues? We have statues for all our various coaches who have won national titles at Bama. Bear and Gene Stallings each have one. What issue do you have with that?


August 22nd, 2010
1:27 pm

Saban’s no longer the most hated person in the history of Miami sports. He’s now only the 2nd most hated person.

Tide Rising

August 22nd, 2010
1:30 pm

Judd (Patrick alias),

As for calling sports agents pimps saban runs a disciplined program and wants no problems with crooked agents.

2 groups of people Saban doesn’t want his players having contact with. One is agents and the second is police. The police we’ve done a good job at lately. Its been over a year since an Alabama player has been arrested. Just curious but have you had any players arrested in the past year? If so how many?

Tide Rising

August 22nd, 2010
1:32 pm

Will (aka Judd, Patrick, and about 10 other aliases),

Help Judd out with that last question that I posed. Bama has not had a player arrested in over a year. How many players have you had arrested in the past 12 months if any?

The Wrestler

August 22nd, 2010
1:38 pm

I don’t think most people understand just how much Miami fans hated Saban for wimping out on them, and leaving their program in total shambles. He went on tv, several times, and gave his word that he was not going to be the coach at Alabama. Then we all know how that ended up, after just 2 years, he just got up, and quit on them. Not sure Miami folks see Saban as “mentally tough” as the way many sports writers do.

Want a laugh? Here’s a video clip where “mentally tough” Saban says he will not be the coach at Alabama, it’s an instant classic:

Ultra Lite

August 22nd, 2010
1:49 pm

ESPN did a pretty good job last year of breaking down the whole Richt vs. Saban thing, Richt was better in most categories, the difference was striking:

Tide Rising

August 22nd, 2010
1:54 pm

The wrester, ultra lite, Patrick Sully, and all your other aliases,

gotta go. Its been fun. I understand that you don’t want to answer my last question. I wouldn’t want to answer it either.

Get some help with that all consuming obsession with Nick Saban. It just aint healthy for ya

Ultra Lite

August 22nd, 2010
1:58 pm

Tide Rising/Patrick Sulley/Beast of the East/PTC Dawg:(might they all be the same person?)

Ok, thanks for trolling on the blog again, have a great day.


August 22nd, 2010
1:59 pm

Some of these Bama homers, you put out a sound point, and they run, just like their coach, oh well, the Saban way, run from adversity or quit on your team.

Paul in RDU

August 22nd, 2010
2:00 pm

Mickey @10:39
Some interesting comments about Mark Richt’s time at FSU – pity they are wrong. Pull out your UGA Football Media guide (UGA sends them to all the big contributors) and take a look at Richt’s bio. You’ll notice that he was in Greenville, NC coaching the ECU Pirates in 1989. Prior to that he was a graduate assistant (2 years) and volunteer assistant (2 years) at FSU. He must have been the greatest unpaid coach in history to be responsible for FSU’s winning records those years.
Richt truly must be a magician to have coached FSU to a 10-2 record in 1989 – not to mention being the greatest

The Wrestler

August 22nd, 2010
2:01 pm

I guess the Alabama fans didn’t read Tony’s article, and didn’t realize the aritcle was about Alabama and could Saban handle the expectations? In my opinion, based on how Saban’s handled adversity for the last 36 years, no, he will not do well this year, that’s as close to a guarantee as you can get.


August 22nd, 2010
2:04 pm

FSU years? Before Richt (pre-1985) Bowden had 0 top 10 finishes, after Richt (2000), Bowden got 0 top 10 finishes, while Richt was at FSU, had like 12 or 13 top 10 finishes. Yeah, Bowden owes his success to Richt. Never did well before of after Richt was on his coaching staff.

Paul in RDU

August 22nd, 2010
2:18 pm

Raze – So Richt was responsible for FSU’s top 10 finish in 1989? Do you even know Richt’s bio?


August 22nd, 2010
2:20 pm

Bowden had 0 top 10 finishes before Richt got there in 1985, and 0 after Richt left in 2000. Yes, Richt was the main reason, obviously, for FSU’s 12 or 13 top 5 finishes, except the 1 year.


August 22nd, 2010
2:32 pm

David Blaine’s one of the most mentally tough persons I can think of.

He doesn’t yell, or scream, or wave his arms. He’s like like Mark Richt in that way.


August 22nd, 2010
3:27 pm

While I have always been in support of Richt, and I don’t think he is on the hotseat, this is a crucial season. Winning the EASt is hugely important. It will establish momentum for the program and draw recruits. Why is alabama and uf on the majority of the top 100s’ lists, because they got the crystal. It is really that simple. Why in the heck else would anyone want to live in Tuscaloosa?

Winning the East is a step in the right direction. Another 8-5, and we will be talking about making Grantham the HC.


August 22nd, 2010
3:29 pm

I am at a complete loss as to why FSU is on so many lists as a top three choice. I am a noles fan, second only to UGA, but how are they getting interest from all these tip top recruits?


August 22nd, 2010
3:33 pm

Saban has Ingram. they will be great. Throw Richardson on top of that. There is no doubt. You don’t have to be a great coach. Give the ball to one of those guys until the D starts cheating. Then throw it to Julio. It ain’t rocket science. How do you beat that running game? Keep their O off the field or play like spurrier used to… buns a blazing? I don’t know. There D will always be tough.


August 22nd, 2010
3:34 pm

I meant guns a blazin’ LOL. That was funny.