ATLANTA — No matter how much Nick Saban protests, it’s always the first thing that comes up with Alabama.
No team has ever won three straight national titles. The top-ranked Crimson Tide sure looks poised to make a run at it, led by one of the nation’s top quarterbacks (AJ McCarron) and a host of talented returnees from the team that wiped out Notre Dame in last season’s BCS championship game for its second straight crown and third in four years.
The Tide will get started on trying to win another today, taking on rebuilding Virginia Tech at the Georgia Dome.
“Alabama’s really done something special,” Hokies coach Frank Beamer said. “I never thought there would be a team that was as dominating for as many years as they have. I never thought that would happen again in college football. I just thought the limitations in scholarships, the things were so much more equal. They’ve done a tremendous job.”
It all starts with Saban, who refuses to let his team get complacent. He barely even celebrated after the 42-14 rout of the Fighting Irish, getting right back to work on trying to win another title.
Just don’t ask him to look at the big picture. For Saban, the day-to-day grind is at the heart of any successful program, which means he’s solely focused on beating the Hokies.
“This is an opportunity for our team to sort of develop an identity for this team for this season, to see if individually and collectively we can play winning football,” Saban said, not a hint of joy in his voice. “Or are we going to have a bunch of blinking lights out there, where we’re making a bunch of mistakes?”
Not much chance of the latter happening.
Not with McCarron, a third-year starter who knows nothing but success, guiding the offense. Not with all the offensive weapons he has at his disposal, including running back T.J. Yeldon and receiver Amari Cooper. Not with a defense led by linebacker C.J. Mosley and safety HaHa Clinton-Dix.
“They’ve done a tremendous job in their recruiting, and then they coach them,” Beamer marveled. “What they’ve done is really special. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Indeed, Virginia Tech is in a much different place than Alabama. The Hokies are coming off their worst season (7-6) since 1992 and eager to show this isn’t a program in decline as Beamer heads into his 27th season as head coach.
With only 10 seniors on the two-deep depth chart, there’s not a lot of experience. But dual-threat quarterback Logan Thomas — who, at 6-foot-6 and 254 pounds, is bigger than most of the guys trying to tackle him — gives Virginia Tech at least a glimmer of hope against the mighty Crimson Tide.
“Obviously they’re the team to beat. They’re the team everybody knows about,” Thomas said. “We’ve just got to go and represent and just have to play well and smart and physical. If we don’t have a lot of mental mistakes, we’ll be just fine.”