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Alabama head coach Nick Saban and offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood hold the trophy after their win against Ohio State in an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Alabama won 52-24. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Best ever

Where do we begin? Let's start with this:

The 2020 Alabama team had the best offense in the history of college football. I know, we're a just year removed from an LSU offense that had the No. 1 overall pick at QB, a first-rounder at RB and what will be two first-rounders playing WR.

But this bunch is better. Consider the numbers, and remember the Tide did it in 13 games — 11 against SEC foes before running roughshod over Notre Dame and THE Ohio State in playoff games. Here's Paschall's recap of the 52-24 bludgeoning.

Let's explore the numbers, and the totals will be skewed toward LSU because of the two extra contests in 2019.:

LSU — 401.6 passing, 167.3 rushing and averaged 6.2 TDs per game;

Alabama — 349.3 passing, 185.8 rushing and 6.0 TDs per game.

Both teams averaged 7.9 yards per play.

The numbers are close — as are the skill position comps considering — but Alabama's O-Line is better and the schedule was way more challenging. Plus, while we're in the comparison phase of the show, would LSU have won it all if Justin Jefferson had broken his ankle in week 3 of 2019? Probably, the Tigers were that good, but they likely would not have been as historically impressive.

Alabama lost Jaylen Waddle and never missed a step or batted an eye. (Side question: What in the name of Blue Hades was Waddle doing in the game after that first catch and run when he had to limp back to the sideline? Gang, a sneaky underbelly of turning a blind eye has been forced upon our conscientiousness during these playoffs. Yes, we all heard the kids clamoring for a chance to play through the COVID — more on that in a moment — and we understand the stakes, the relationships, the connection with teammates and all of it that drive them to play through it all. But someone needs to look Waddle in the eye and say, "Sorry pal, this is not working." And never mind the way THE Ohio State pretended everything was hunky-dory when Justin Fields took that brutal hit from the Clemson LB or THE OSU tight end was targeted last night by the Alabama safety.)

So Bama's the best, crowned in a playoff of familiar helmets that may have been the most normal thing in the most surreal year ever.

Know this too: for all the chatter about the SEC being way down and/or the league being top heavy, that's not an SEC problem. That's a college football problem friends.

It's Alabama and everyone else — not in the West, not in the league where it means more, but across the landscape of college football.

Ask yourself this: What two programs could combine their rosters and have more talent than Alabama? Clemson and Georgia, maybe, considering the former's offense and the latter's defense? And that's not hyperbole or overstatement.

That's the state of the game, and you have to believe that it's not good for the appeal of the game.

This is not sour grapes from an Auburn grad; this is a musing from a long-time college football junkie.

Because, for as much as the COVID robbed the atmosphere and stole a large chunk of the joy of the best regular season in sports, the inevitability of the ultimate outcome ripped the drama from the script.

And yes, the retooling will be extensive for the offense, but the Alabama defense had three seniors on its three-deep. Yes, there will be several defections, but there will be a few surprise returns too. (Heck, DaVonta Smith and Najee Harris coming back this time last year was game-changing.)

Simply stated, Alabama's dominance is historical — six titles since 2009 — and it's downright dangerous for the popularity of the sport. Truly. And in no way am I asking for rule changes or restrictions or plans for parity. The rest of college football needs to get closer to Alabama, not bringing the Tide down to the pack.

It's undeniably amazing.

 

The reason

Alabama has great everything when it comes to football — tradition, facilities, support, passion, you name it, it's all there.

But make no mistake the Tide's all-time excellence of this moment starts with the man at the top.

Because if you want to discuss if LSU was as good or better than Alabama offensive, fine. There are numbers to spin. There is no spin, there are no numbers and there certainly no debating this:

Nick Saban is the best college coach ever. Don't bring up the UNC soccer coach's insane numbers Intern Scott. Don't point to UConn and mention Geno. Don't ask about Pat or Wooden or Rupp or Bear or fill-in-the-blank with a one-name all-timer.

Saban's greatness is without peer.

He is the greatest recruiter ever. He is a master at motivation. He is a clear and elite communicator. He is emotionally stable and fiery at the same time. He develops elite talent — be it among the assistants (dude completely rehabbed the images of Sark and Kiffin Heck, Butch Jones has another HC gig gang) or players.

And it's too easy to just say it's his recruiting. That sells short the rest of the coaching clubs in his bag.

Because, know this: Not only does he convince the most confident and competitive teenagers in the country to come to Tuscaloosa and wait their turn, he also cultivates a loyalty that year after year future millionaires put their seven-figure futures on hold to return to play for him.

The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.

 

2020 review

I know a lot of folks had a wide array of opinions about whether they should or should not play.

I, as one fan and a former full-time sports writer, thought throughout they should make every effort to play for the players who wanted to play. Opt outs happened, and no one could blame any player for making that decision.

There are all sorts of opinions out there, and without using the generalizations, there have been some folks who were against the season from the start and it felt like they were cheering for outbreaks along the way to prove their original opinions correct. (Yes, that's the worst type of professional pride and in my mind is downright hateful to be honest.)

My review of and memories from 2020 will be a lot of things.

I can't help but feel thankful for the efforts and sacrifices made by the players, coaches, staff and families to allow us some hours of something close to a familiar Saturday in the fall.

I will remember the greatness of this Alabama team. I will remember the ineptness of the Tennessee bunch. I will remember, forever, that any pleas or cries of a lack of money are no longer valid considering the firings at Texas, South Carolina and Auburn among others during a pandemic that has crashed checkbooks and budgets everywhere.

I will always appreciate the grace of DaVonta Smith, who heads to the NFL as the SEC record holder for single-season receiving yards, career receiving yards, single season receiving TDs and career receiving TDs.

And I will always know that the parts around college football — the fans, the bands, the tailgating, all of it — are as invaluable as the game and the referees.

Because we can all admire Alabama's dominance and wonder if the lack of competitive balance could damage the product long-term.

But there is no denying that empty stadiums or limited capacity made this not only the strangest college football experience ever.

It also was the least amount of fun. (Well accept for Bama backers, that is.)

 

This and that

— In years past, we have done a 'Way too early' poll for the next college football season. Not sure, with all the transfers and changes and whatnot, that anyone can craft such a poll with any kind of accuracy. (Not like those were all that accurate any way, but this year, they seem especially far-fetched.) So we'll offer these two 2021 projections. We'll take Alabama 1, and everyone else a clear step behind that. And secondly, here's hoping that we can reconvene next fall around a tailgate, be it in Auburn, Athens or K-Town or downtown next to Finley for that matter.

— As if they needed the help — and as if we needed one more Alabama tidbit in today's 5-at-10 — The Athletic is reporting that Bill O'Brien will replace Steve Sarkisian as the Tide's next OC. Oy vey.

— For those of y'all who like to wet your beak in the dark arts of sports wagering, everything related to Bama paid well Monday. Everything other than Bama minus-0.5 in the first quarter since the first stanza ended 7-7. But the line (-8.5 or -9), the over 75, the halftime line (-5 depending on where and when you bet it) and team total (over 45) all cashed.    

— Speaking of the Tide, you have to believe the late start combined with the early blowout will lead to less than good TV numbers.

— You know the rules. Here's Weeds on college hoops. And talk about a different time and a different sensibility as well as what you become used to or immune to or even what is and is not considered controversial, but until I read Weeds' column, I had not heard that UK players and coaches took a knee during the national anthem against Florida over the weekend. Not sure that something like this from a team with a profile like UK's going relatively unnoticed is good, bad or indifferent to be truthful.

— Philadelphia fired Doug Pederson on Monday. Yeah, color me surprised considering I have always thought that unless the wheels come completely off — Auburn 2012 with Chizik — coaches should get a bigger window after they win a title. So it goes I guess, especially when the Eagles owner said on Zoom that Pederson did not deserve to lose his job, but did anyway. And if there is any fire behind the smoke that this was a tug of war between Carson Wentz and Pederson and ownership sided with the QB, well, good luck finding Pederson's replacement.

— NFL Power Poll will return Wednesday. Deal? Deal.

— Speaking of announcements, I have a few more papers to grade in the Bowling for Bowls of Bowl Game Success (Bowler Optional) to grade. Results coming as soon as I finish.

— Elsewhere in today's TFP, there were a slew of interesting items and stories. We'll start here with an eye-popping story from Super Dave Flessner, the TFP business editor who shares that bankruptcies were down 38% in Chattanooga in 2020 compared to 2019 and down 30% nationally. That defies assumed logic considering the pandemic and certainly raises questions of how much more government stimulus aid is needed — especially universal checks cut to everyone.

— Also, here's today's A2 effort on the Terminator's message over the weekend.

 

Today's questions

True or false, the targeting rule with the player being ejected is too harsh.

True or false, DaVonta Smith is the best non-quarterback in SEC football history.

True or false, this Alabama team is the best college football team ever. (If you say false, please offer one you believe to be better.)

You know the drill, answer some T or Fs, leave some T or Fs.

As for today, Howard Stern is 67.
Rushmore of 'Howard' and be creative.

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