We're still 6 days away from kicking off the 2013 college football season, which means that every football-related site in the world is still trying to fill the enormous number of column inches (or whatever the Internet-friendly equivalent is) before having the opportunity to talk about actual games for the first time in months.
ESPN, as we all know, is truly the worldwide leader in sports. Sure, Fox Sports 1 and 2 are the young upstarts, and NBCSN will try to leverage the Premier League as their main source of traction in the sports world, but they're all nipping at the heels of ESPN, and they probably always will be. And that's the double-edged sword that comes from having the no doubt, number one sports network in the world: you get ALL THE PAGEVIEWS, but you also have to make sure those pages have something worth viewing.
Enter Chris Low, SEC blogger. We've seen, and noticed in this space before, the way the media is more than fired up to talk about Alabama and the SEC and the Roman Empire, all without too much hyperbole; this is Chris Low's job, as it is the same task with Ritternberg and Bennett on the Big Ten beat, to speak only and wholly about the SEC. Low does a good job, for the most part, and I can't completely blame him for what he filed recently.
But I'm going to anyway, as a service to you, dear readers. To the FJM Machine!
Don't even think about uttering the dreaded "D" word within earshot of Alabama coach Nick Saban.
D-bag? Devil? Both would be appropriate and/or topical.
You know ... Dynasty.
The only thing that interests Saban less than what the Crimson Tide have accomplished to this point is what kind of legacy he's establishing at a place that already claims 15 national football championships.
"Every team stands on its own, and every team has something to prove," Saban said. "It's not a continuation. We'll find out about this team this year, and that's the only thing that any of us are concerned about."
Saban does have a point, and he may not care about legacy. Just ask NFL fans in South Beach what they think about Saban's "legacy".
I kid. There are no sports fans anywhere in Miami.
Perhaps so, but the rest of the college football world is watching intently to see if Alabama can make it three straight national championships and four in the past five seasons.
No, we're really not. Everyone in the SEC hates Alabama, and everyone else in the country wants to beat the hell out of them, if at all possible. You think Les Miles is on pins and needles about what 'Bama does this year? You think Urban Meyer is?
Not since Minnesota (1934-36) has a school won three consecutive national titles in college football. None has won four outright national titles in a five-year span since Yale, which won six in seven years, from 1882 to 1888, and only a select few schools were playing football in those days.
Minnesota? B-1-G! B-1-G! B-1-G!
What's more, this current run by Alabama comes at a time when college football is thriving, particularly in the SEC. Three other schools -- Auburn, Florida and LSU -- have contributed to the league's streak of seven straight national championships.
That's very true. I have nothing snarky to say about this. The SEC has been both unbearable and unbearably good over the last decade. No argument here.
But even with the rest of the SEC flexing its collective muscle, it's difficult to see any end to Alabama's run, especially given the recruiting machine that Saban has built.
"Nobody's going to out-recruit them, and I think [Saban] could have an easy 10 more years," said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.
Spurrier then took off his shirt, teed up his shot and hit a beautiful cut three wood that he cared more about than anything football-related since the early 90s.
It's true that Alabama hasn't put together the kind of record streak that Oklahoma did from 1953 to 1957, when the Sooners won 47 straight games, and the method of selecting the national champion in college football has changed dramatically.
Here's a fun BCS fact from a few years ago. Boise State was 10-0 going into a game with then #19 Nevada. Long story short, Nevada won because LOL Boise State kickers. So Boise was predicted to take a tumble in the polls a few days later, but didn't end up falling as far as they were expected to because their only loss of the season was deemed a quality loss because the team that beat them, Nevada, had a very high quality win over...Boise State. This is the system that has selected the national champion in college football for the last 15 years.
Nonetheless, the Crimson Tide have in many ways become what UCLA basketball was in the 1960s and early 1970s under John Wooden and what the New York Yankees have been in baseball.
Nope. NOPE. Not in 1,000 years can you compare Saban to the Wizard of Westwood. That is just a disservice to Wooden, who coached at two places in his career, Indiana State and UCLA, and never once dreamed of leaving for greener, teal-and-orange-er pastures. So let's keep those comparisons to a minimum.
It's only fitting that Yankees manager Joe Girardi spoke to the Alabama team earlier this month.
"I'll tell you what, boys! If you keep your heads down, and let Alex Rodriguez do whatever you want, then you too can be the BEST FOURTH PLACE TEAM IN THE HISTORY OF BASEBALL ROLL TIDE ROLL!"
"The Yankees and Alabama are a lot alike because we're both the hunted at all times no matter where we go," said Alabama's AJ McCarron, who is 25-2 as a starter and trying to become the first major college quarterback in the modern era to win three national championships.
"The Yankees go play Cleveland or the Kansas City Royals or anybody, and they're going to be the team everybody wants to beat. It's the same with us. Every week, we've got a target on our backs at all times. It's no different off the field, either. You step out of your house, and people are watching you in everyday life to see if you're going to mess up."
The "we have a target on our backs" defense needs to go away forever. Every week, EVERY team has a target on their backs. You think Florida A&M doesn't think that will be the situation when they roll into Ohio Stadium in a few weeks? You think Ohio State doesn't have that on their minds when they roll into Evanston?
Again, though, the bigger picture doesn't register with Saban, which probably explains why he just keeps churning out titles.
Getting 19- and 20-year-olds to develop that same kind of single-minded focus and not get swallowed up by the magnitude of it all is a trickier proposition
I'm sure the monthly stipend and locker room waterfalls bring all the focus you need.
"It hurts you when you've got immature players, and that's not a good recipe at the end of the day if you want to keep winning," McCarron said. "You've got to do the right thing and listen to Coach Saban. He's always told me the truth and led me in the right direction.
"It might not have always been something I wanted to hear, but it was always the truth."
It's that kind of a quote that makes Heisman voters salivate this early in a season. It sounds like Crash Davis was coaching those lines out of McCarron.
"Everybody wants to win, but I like coming out here and practicing and playing games on Saturday," McCarron said. "I like playing the game of football. Winning and losing isn't the end of the world. I think people get caught up in that sometimes a little too much, especially when you achieve success so many years.
"They just start expecting it year in and year out. They kind of forget what it takes to get to that point and how special it really is. That's one thing for me. I want to keep everything in perspective and have fun playing the game."
These platitudes can be translated one of two ways:
Translation 1: "Awwwwww shucks, I hope we win that there championship but if we don't, then dawww horsefeathers, I hope I played the best game I could!"
Translation 2: "Please send help. If we don't win, Coach Saban will beat us with a sock full of quarters. He is the one who made Eddie Lacy fat, you are damn sure he can kill any one of us without batting an eyelash. Oh my god, I THINK HE'S OUTSIDE LISTENING TO ME RIGHT NOW!!!!"
McCarron will leave it to everyone else to judge where this run by the Crimson Tide ranks.
"I'm sure when I'm older and half-bald and have kids and grandkids, it will be pretty special to see everything we accomplished as a team here and as a university," McCarron said. "Hopefully, we can keep building on it this year and add one more trophy to the case before I leave."
At this rate, it's a case that's going to need expanding.
McCarron is fortunate that he has his girlfriend's ability to absorb every nanosecond of his 15 minutes of fame. He plays for the single greatest college football team of all time (according to some, anyway), and is heaving around cliches left and right and no matter how poorly he plays, there are still 12 5-star running backs and wide receivers that are going to make him look just fine, thanks.
Alabama quarterbacks about about as pointless as driving to a Chik-fil-a on Sunday. Quick experiment: name the last four Alabama quarterbacks. If you remembered as far back as Brodie Croyle, then you should probably stop reading and turn Finebaum back on. This is an article comparing Nick Saban to John Wooden, and making AJ McCarron out to being the straw that stirs Saban's milkshake. It is worth all the GUGHs in the land.
Some day, a team outside the SEC is going to win a college football national championship. It could be this year or next or the next. But the sooner the better, lest we all have to suffer through more and more and more of this bloviation, king-making editorial dreck passed off as sports news by major national outlets. I just hope that the good lord willing, just for the sake of variety being the spice of life and all, that this is the year it happens.