TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It hasn't exactly been a cake walk for Nick Saban this season.
But the best coach in college football—and maybe all of sports—is quite possibly putting together the best coaching job of his career.
And it's largely going unnoticed.
But let's back up a few steps.
For one, he and Alabama entered the year with astronomical expectations. The kind of expectations that make consecutive 25-point home wins feel more like losses.
The Crimson Tide were coming off of their third BCS National Championship in four years. And they weren't exactly squeakers either.
Alabama thoroughly dominated three really good teams in those championship games on the biggest stage in college football.
And the year they didn't win it, 2010, the Tide were as loaded as ever but fell short due to similar expectations.
Sports Illustrated named them a dynasty after their win in 2009. But Alabama lost three games that year, with Saban and other players citing entitlement as the reason it faltered.
So this season looked to be as tough as ever in that regard. Alabama was No. 1 in just about every major poll out there, and it wasn't even close. The Tide returned all of their skill players except for Eddie Lacy on offense. And the defense was replacing its departed stars with more stud recruits.
It was a no-brainer.
Alabama has also dealt with a higher number of off-field problems than normal. It started in the spring, when four players were arrested and subsequently dismissed after a pair of on-campus robberies.
Then things went from bad to worse.
Yahoo! Sports dropped a story alleging that former right tackle D.J. Fluker received improper benefits while at Alabama.
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was suspended a few weeks later for reportedly taking a loan from a strength and conditioning coach.
It's the kind of off-field troubles that start to add up for a team and potentially derail a historic season.
Only it hasn't.
Those troubles combined with the enormous expectations sound like a recipe for disaster. But despite a few early-season games that Alabama won but looked a little weak in, the Crimson Tide have been on an absolute tear through their last five games.
Even a home date with LSU, a game that in the past has meant so much, seems like just another speed bump in the road.
Alabama could certainly fall between now and January 6. The SEC has been anything but predictable this year. But the Crimson Tide are showing no signs of weakness right now like the signs they showed in 2010 and even at some points in 2011 and 2012, when Alabama lost but still made it to the title game.
The credit goes to the man at the top, the best coach in college football, Nick Saban.
For some reason, Saban is hardly ever in the conversation for all of the major coach of the year awards at the end of the season. The most recent coach of the year award he received was the 2010 Amos Alonzo Stagg Coaching Award for leading Alabama to the '09 title.
This year, names like Auburn's Gus Malzahn, Baylor's Art Briles and Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury are coming up for awards. That's all well and good—it's hard to discredit the job that those and other coaches around the country have done.
The awards always seem to go to up-and-comers. No one ever seems to mention Saban because he's already at the top.
This year, though, it's hard to argue that Saban is doing the best coaching job in the country. And it's certainly looking like the best he's done in his entire career.