The Alabama Crimson Tide will take the field in Atlanta today with one thing in mind. The SEC Title is the goal. It is the only goal.
Yes, a chance to play for the BCS national title would be the greater reward, but that will not be the focus for the Tide on this day.
Alabama wins championships. The Tide has won 14 national titles and 26 conference titles dating back to the old Southern Conference in the 1920s. Alabama has never gone more than 10 years without coming away with either a conference or national crown.
Five different coaches have led Alabama to the national championship (Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, "Bear" Bryant, Gene Stallings and Nick Saban).
When Nick Saban and the Tide took the field for their first spring practice this year, the goal was to win a title. When two-a-days started in August, the blood, sweat and tears poured out by the Alabama football players were expected to result in a title.
Alabama has fielded 120 first team All-Americans and has placed 23 players and coaches in the college football Hall of Fame.
Alabama has played in, and won, more bowl games than any other program in college football. The Tide is seventh all time in wins and sixth in winning percentage nationally.
All of that is nice, but means little when not accompanied by a title.
At Alabama football is, in many ways, life. There are no professional sports franchises to turn to and the percent of the population that comes from outside the southeast is extremely low.
When former players are asked about their days with the Tide, the first question is almost always "Were you on a championship team?" If the answer is yes, the reverence for that player immediately grows.
We were born to love Alabama football. We were raised to expect the best from our football program and to live vicariously through them from the time we learned to talk.
Coach Bryant returned to Alabama to become the head coach because, as he said, "Mama called". He knew the importance of a quality football program to his state and the people that lived in it. Coach Stallings, one of Bryant's pupils at Texas A&M, knew it as well.
When Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa almost seven years ago, his only prior experience with Alabama was when he walked the opposing sideline as head coach at LSU.
But he knew.
Saban knew how important winning was to the Alabama family and, as luck would have it, he held the same respect for and dedication to excellence.
Since he has been at the Capstone, Saban has demanded the best from his players. He preaches excellence, effort, dedication and determination with every waking moment. He walks and talks like a winner and he expects his athletes to do the same.
Alabama may or may not win this afternoon, but this is, with out a doubt, the day that they have been working toward ever since the day following January's BCS title win over LSU. You see, at Alabama we win one title and then immediately focus our sights on the next one.
If Alabama comes away with a victory over Georgia, 24 hours will be taken to celebrate and then its attention will turn directly to South Bend, Indiana where the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame will be waiting with the BCS national title at stake.
If not, the focus will turn to Virginia Tech, who opens the 2013 season against Alabama, and the "process" well start anew.
We are Alabama. It's what we do.