Alabama was lost. Gone were the glory days of "The Bear", and Tide nation was in shambles.
Coming off the heels of a 7-6 season, the Crimson Tide entered the 2008 preseason No. 22, but no one expected much.
Little did anyone know that 2008 was the year Nick Saban was to be unleashed once again on the SEC, this time in the crimson of Alabama.
It was the game of the week. The No. 9 Clemson Tigers, led by C.J. Spiller and Cullen Harper, were the favorites to win that week in Atlanta. Gameday was there, and both rabid fanbases flooded Atlanta. Clemson's expected victory was not to be, as the Tide scored three times behind senior quarterback John Parker Wilson in the first quarter, and twice in the second, to make it a 23-3 halftime lead on their way to an eventual 34-10 victory.
Alabama coach Nick Saban, however, did not celebrate. His next task was to keep his team from getting overconfident going into the next week against Tulane.
Nick Saban had a heavy task to complete: Keep his Tide from getting too confident. Alabama's next two opponents were Tulane and FBS newcomer Western Kentucky. Saban and the Tide set out to make sure they did not get an upset pulled on them in Tuscaloosa.
Tulane came into town, to applause by Tide fans, on Sept. 6 with a mission to catch the Crimson Tide napping. Alabama jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter off of two special teams touchdowns, and the defense led the way, keeping the Green Wave to six points as the Tide won 20-6.
Sept. 13 brought the Division 1A newcomer Western Kentucky Hilltoppers into town. In a game that saw senior quarterback John Parker Wilson become the all-time offensive leader for the Tide, Alabama rolled WKU 41-7.
Nick Saban had achieved his goal of keeping his Tide on its heels against lesser competition, now it was time for SEC play.
The first SEC test was upon the Tide, a Sept. 20 game in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
This test was to become a rout of the Hogs. The first half saw the Crimson Tide score five touchdowns, two on interceptions and two on rush attempts. The lone Arkansas score in the half was a Casey Dick pass to Andrew Davie, and by the time the first half was over, the score was 35-7 in favor of the Tide.
Alabama went on to score two more rushing touchdowns, and the Tide would win their SEC opener by the score of 49-14. This victory set the stage for a huge matchup the next week with the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens, GA.
It was a huge SEC matchup. The ninth-ranked Crimson Tide vs. the seemingly unstoppable No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs in Athens, Georgia. It was Alabama's second "Gameday" game. Bulldog coach Mark Richt had called for a blackout in an effort to intimidate the Tide, but it was Georgia who was blacked out. Alabama jumped out to a lead quickly and didn't look back. By the time the first half was over it was all Alabama, with the score 31-0.
Georgia wasn't about to lie down, as they came out fired up and in the second half scored 30, but the first half had proved to be enough as Alabama won in Athens 41-30, handing Georgia its first loss of the season.
Nick Saban was, however, disgusted by his team's performance in the second half, going against his "Finish" philosophy. When asked if he had a national championship team he quickly deflected the question with, "Let's wait until we have a full body of work."
Alabama had achieved national relevance again.
The next two games on the Tide schedule were home games against SEC foes Mississippi and Kentucky. These games proved to be scares for No. 2 Alabama.
Kentucky was first, and Alabama jumped out to a 14-0 lead at halftime, but a Kentucky touchdown in the third quarter made it 14-7 Alabama going into the fourth. Alabama kicked a field goal to make it 17-7, but Kentucky wouldn't go away, and a touchdown by the Wildcats made it 17-14.
Suddenly it seemed as if Alabama may drop the decision, but an onside kick that went out of bounds sealed the victory for the Tide in a game riddled by errors.
The next week brought rival Mississippi into Tuscaloosa. Houston Nutt's Rebels held a 3-0 lead in the first until John Parker Wilson connected with Marquis Maze (pictured above) to give the Tide a 7-3 lead. The first half belonged to Alabama, and they held the lead 24-7 going into the third.
That's when things got testy.
The Rebels, who had already come back from a halftime deficit against Florida, connected with Jason Cook in the third quarter to make it 24-10, then in the fourth Jevan Snead went to Shay Hodge to cut it to 24-17. Mississippi added another field goal, but the Tide would stop them on their final possession and win 24-20.
Alabama was 7-0.
Nick Saban had been successful in his first game against rival Tennessee in a 41-17 shellacking of the Volunteers in Tuscaloosa the year before. Now it was his turn to go to Knoxville to put Phil Fulmer in defeat, and possibly out of his job.
Victory came pretty easily. After a first quarter defensive hiccup by the Tide, which afforded Tennessee a field goal, it was all Alabama. A second quarter Glen Coffee touchdown made it 13-3 at the half, and third quarter scores by kicker Leigh Tiffin and a John Parker Wilson rush made it 22-3 Tide.
The fourth quarter would bring a touchdown each for Tennessee and Alabama, and by the end Neyland Stadium and the Tide faithful were singing "Rammer Jammer" to the Vols. The Tide won 29-9.
The Tide scored an easy victory against Arkansas State 35-0, then it was on to Baton Rouge, Louisiana for a date with the Tigers of Louisiana State.
Nick Saban had once been the coach for LSU, but a turn of events landed him at the helm of Alabama, enraging Tiger fans. Everyone in Baton Rouge had the date circled for when Nick would return since he landed the Tide job, and that day had finally come for them. Death Valley was rocking as Saban and his No. 1 Tide team entered the Stadium.
The first score of the game came when John Parker Wilson rushed for a yard to make it 7-0 Alabama, but Tiger Stadium erupted as LSU scored twice, once on a pass to Demetrius Byrd and the other on a Charles Scott rush of 30 yards, to make it 14-7 in favor of the Tigers. The second quarter brought a Tide touchdown when Rashad Johnson intercepted LSU QB Jarrett Lee and returned it 54 yards for the score.
It was all tied up at 14 apiece going into the half. Death Valley was ready to live up to its name of being the place where great teams lose.
The third quarter saw Alabama's Glenn Coffee rush for three yards and a touchdown, but in the fourth it was LSU's Charles Scott again who would rush for a touchdown and the tying score. 21-21 near the end of regulation, and the Tide elected to kick a very short field goal to win the game. Death Valley was deafening as Leigh Tiffin lined up to kick the field goal to win the game, but the kick was blocked and Death Valley exploded in excitement. The game was headed to overtime.
LSU received first possession and gained four yards in two plays before Jarrett Lee was intercepted by Rashad Johnson once again (pictured above), and this time it decided the game, as Alabama came out on their next drive and went three plays for the game-winning touchdown and the Tide were victorious.
After a dazzling defensive display against Mississippi State and a 32-7 win, the Tide headed into their final game, the Iron Bowl, with in-state rival Auburn.
Auburn had beaten the Tide six straight times, and Saban and Alabama looked to put a stop to that in Tuscaloosa.
They say defense wins championships. It wins Iron Bowls, that's for sure. Auburn was held to only 170 yards while Alabama put up 412 yards of offense and beat Auburn 36-0, one of the biggest margins of victory in Iron Bowl history.
Auburn's six game win streak was finally snapped, and it looked like Tommy Tuberville's coaching tenure on the Plains might be up.
Alabama hardly celebrated, as the next week was to be a game of historic proportions against the No. 2 Florida Gators for the SEC and national championships.
It didn't get any bigger: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Florida for the SEC and a spot against Oklahoma for the national title. Urban Meyer vs. Nick Saban, a coaching showdown for the ages, and both had their teams ready to play that Dec. 6. Tens of millions around the country tuned in to watch this showdown.
Florida drew first blood on a Tim Tebow pass to Carl Moore, but Alabama responded in the first with a touchdown and a field goal to make it 10-7 Alabama at the end of the first. Florida responded in the second with 10 points, a Tebow pass to David Nelson for a touchdown and a 30-yard field goal by Jonathan Phillips, to take a 17-10 halftime lead.
The Tide came out in the Third and scored twice, an Mark Ingram rush and a Tiffin field goal, to take the lead 20-17 over Florida. However, in the fourth Florida scored a touchdown off of a Jeffrey Demps rush and took the lead for good.
Alabama had a chance to regain the lead, but John Parker Wilson threw a pick, and Tebow secured the victory with a touchdown of his own. At the end of the game it was Florida 31, Alabama 20. The Tide were handed their first loss of the year and were destined for the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Alabama was heavily favored in the 2009 Allstate Sugar Bowl against Mountain West Conference foe Utah. However, the confidence was shaken a bit when Andre Smith, Alabama's superstar offensive tackle, was suspended from the game for violating team rules.
The Tide were still favored, however, and the game began. The first quarter was a disaster, as Utah scored three times to lead 21-0. In the second quarter things got a little better on an Alabama field goal and touchdown, and the score at the half was a surprising 21-10 lead in favor of the Utes.
The third quarter saw Javier Arenas return a punt for the Tide and the Utah lead was cut to 21-17, but Utah's Brian Johnson added a touchdown and a field goal followed suit. Utah shocked the world and capped off their undefeated season with a victory over the Tide 31-17.
No matter how you slice it, Alabama is back. Gone are the days of 7-6 finishes; a new era in Tuscaloosa, one full of SEC championships, and even national titles, is on the horizon. Alabama, for the second straight year, has brought in the No. 1 recruiting class, complete with superstar running back Trent Green.
The Tide have an increasingly hostile rivalry with LSU, one that will likely decide the SEC West for years to come, and budding rivalries with Florida and Mississippi and as long as Nick Saban continues to coach at Alabama, The Tide will keep rolling.