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The Nick Saban Standard

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Perhaps the force behind Nick Saban's system, the starting point and the finish line remain the exact same thing.

When we won in the Rose Bowl against Texas, the only thing that went through my mind was 'what's next?'
~Colin Peek

Fresh off five national championships in nine seasons, and two titles in three years, Alabama is 14-0, ranked number one in the polls, has scored the most touchdowns in the country, has the nation's most decorated defensive player -- and that, clearly, isn't enough. When it comes to Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide, more is the ultimate measure. That unrelenting expectation has Alabama dominating the competitive landscape and redefining their own status quo. History, quite frankly, is struggling to keep up. 

The Crimson Tide have won 53 of their last 55 outings; at college football's premier program, the next one is all that matters.  

Ahead of yet another Alabama showdown with fellow superpower Clemson, the two school's fourth playoff pairing in five editions and third title bout, already unrealistic margins continue to be pushed. Saban demands it. While the Crimson Tide are the game's best, that distinction, alone, has never been enough. Alabama's tradition, combined with Saban's perspective, has created a modern-day dynasty that knows no bounds. Remarkably, the standard is still being set.    

"Coach has been able to create a mindset where when you come to Alabama, you aren't going just to play for any program, you are going there because you want to win multiple national championships, because you want the greatest coach of all time to teach you what it is like to be a professional, to take you from a boy to a man, from a man to a professional," explained former eight end Colin Peek. "When you are a senior or an upperclassman, you would be embarrassed not to leave with a national championship your last game."

Come Monday, every single player on the Alabama roster will have played in the College Football Final every single year. A desire and determination both innate and instructed is the starting point for such unfathomable consistency. Everything, long-before any game ever kicks off, revolves around Saban's exact specifications. Conditioning to strength training, preparation to schemes, all habits, amongst all parties, are intertwined. That infrastructure is one without compromise. It, being the best, is more lifestyle than mindset

The true power of Saban's message isn't just that his players respond to it, but that they encourage it as well.  

"The players have completely bought in. Of course Saban still preaches it, but the guys preach it to each other," explained former Alabama and current Jacksonville Jaguars long-snapper Carson Tinker. "Everybody there wants to be great, they all have a purpose for why they want to be there and why they want to win."

Conviction can't be faked and, with the Crimson Tide, it's forged. The confidence Alabama takes the field with comes directly from the top down. Saban demands excellence, then works tirelessly to ensure that such persistence pays off. The end result is the Crimson Tide being as prepared as possible for the big stage. Correspondingly, Alabama is 9-1 in their last ten College Football Playoff and SEC Championship games; the lone loss in that span came by one score with one second remaining. 

In a era of numbers and statistics, there is a meticulousness driving the Crimson Tide's success that is simply unquantifiable. When Saban evaluates, he goes well beyond the box score. That approach, regardless of any outside influence, keeps every person in the program in-tune with their own responsibilities. Though the setting may change, the sentiments do not. Team-wide, Alabama's proficiency comes down to individual players understanding their roles and performing up to their potential. In a complex sport, simplicity works for the Crimson Tide.  

"Saban's usually is it's just another game, don't make it bigger than it is," Tinker added of his former coach's directive, "just focus on doing your job and knowing that the guy next to you is doing the same."

Soon, Alabama will play for a potential 18th national title. The Crimson Tide, along with Clemson, are vying to become the first FBS side to go 15-0 ever. An Alabama victory would only add to the staggering legacies of both the greatest program in college football history and the greatest coach of all-time. Here, it's a follower-the-leader mentality and the leader marches, always forward, in a circle. The ultimate goal of this process is the process itself.    

Perhaps the force behind Saban's system, the starting point and the finish line remain the exact same thing. 

"Most people are celebrating or excited saying 'yes, we won a national championship'. When we won in the Rose Bowl against Texas, the only thing that went through my mind was 'what's next?'," Peek recalled. "When people celebrate things they want, that's cool and all, but we didn't walk into the stadium expecting to lose. We walked into the stadium knowing we were going to win. So then it becomes just 'let's get this one out of the way, so we can keep marching towards whatever is left in front of us left to accomplish'."

Should Alabama win the national championship once more, don't expect much of a smile from Saban; expect a stare, instead. There may be time for reflection later, but his focus remains on the future. What Saban wants is what lies ahead. Complaceny, as much as Clemson, is the next opponent. It's Saban's job to find the edge.    

Monday night awaits as another chance at glory. So, too, does the very next day.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports