Alabama coach reveals the real expectations of a No. 1 team

It’s never good for the coach or the team to be under expectations that are unachievable, but rarely, if ever, have those expectations been higher than they are for the Crimson Tide.

Coach Nick Saban has led Alabama to nine national championships since arriving in Tuscaloosa in 2007, a coaching feat no one has even sniffed at in the college game, let alone replicated.

With a national championship victory over Georgia in the Georgia Dome in last January’s college football championship game, Saban joined Alabama coach Bryant in the exclusive club of FBS coaches to win six national championships.

Six at the head of one powerhouse program, or six at the head of multiple powerhouses.

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Saban, however, is looking to blunt the fans’ unrealistic high expectations this season.

After rifling off 40-plus wins for six straight seasons, the self-proclaimed best coach in the land met with the Birmingham media Monday to discuss and clarify his team’s preseason preseason expectations.

“At this time last year, we were a team that was under 10 people (on the depth chart) for the most part,” Saban said. “So at the time, it was under five scholarships.

“When we got down to the bowl game against LSU and we were the top three team in the nation, it was almost like a group of kids that were made up of those three players who were on scholarship and a couple of walk-ons. I think we’ve come a long way, but I think that we still have a long way to go.”

So what makes Alabama so special?

“It’s the talent, the people we have in our locker room, the work ethic that they have, our consistency and, again, because it’s the team that we have, I think you get the feeling from the general public that it’s ‘go, go, go.’ That’s what I’ve tried to tell everybody – whether it’s the fans or the media – I think they’re all trying to know what we’re going to do next. I think it’s really their expectation, and we kind of want to do it for them.

“I think they all want to see us do it. We want to do it for them.”

In recent years, the Alabama players have met the expectations created by the fans, by their coach, and especially by one another.

In 2015, the Crimson Tide finished No. 1 in the final AP and coaches’ polls, but with heavy focus being placed on Clemson, Alabama made it to the final. It was a team determined to prove the critics wrong with a long-awaited national championship.

It came as no surprise that this preseason, Alabama has been universally picked to finish No. 1 in the AP poll. The College Football Playoff and the National Championship Game are the big reasons why.

“Well, I always want to be No. 1,” Saban said Monday. “I never want to say I don’t. I think we have a pretty good team, and I don’t think that people necessarily look at us and think we can win it all this year. We don’t. But we’ve got a very good team.

“We won it last year. We won it last year. I always want to be No. 1, but it’s not like it’s a sport where you can predict (it). The only thing you can always do is try to improve your team.”

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