Alabama Football: Crimson Tide Are the Best Since Bush/Leinart Trojans

Matt Ryan@Matlanta1989Correspondent IISeptember 25, 2011

Alabama opened up the SEC schedule in dominating fashion with a 38-14 rout over the Arkansas Razorbacks.  It was far from a repeat of last year's contest, in which they trailed 20-7 late in the third quarter and made a comeback win by scoring 17 unanswered points.

The Razorbacks surpassed the Crimson Tide in passing yardage (209 yards to 200 yards), but never had a lead and were out-rushed by 180 yards.

Trent Richardson made a Heisman statement with 126 rushing yards, 85 receiving yards, and a touchdown catch.

Mark Ingram may now play for the New Orleans Saints, but the offense once again has a two-headed monster in the backfield.

Richardson is already a star, and Eddie Lacy is quickly becoming one in the Southeastern Conference.  

He is averaging nearly nine yards per carry after four games ( a figure that is likely to decrease as SEC play continues).

In his five seasons in Tuscaloosa, Nick Saban has built the best program in the nation. He led Alabama to a national title in only two seasons, and has a great chance to earn more championship rings in the future.

The Crimson Tide were favored to win it all again last season. They certainly didn’t live up to the expectations after going 10-3, but they are once again in the national spotlight this season.

As long as Saban is in charge, Alabama will likely remain in that spotlight and be contending for a national championship year in and year out.

He is arguably the top head coach in college football now that Pete Carrol and Jim Tressel are working in the NFL and Urban Meyer is calling games in the television booth.

Four Alabama players were drafted in the first round in April, and their replacements have been more than adequate with the talent of players like Lacy.

No matter how many players leave early for the NFL Draft or go in the first round, the Crimson Tide have found a way to replace their departed stars because of their depth and great recruiting.

It’s similar to the success Pete Carrol had with the USC Trojans this past decade. USC and Alabama are two of the most storied programs in college football history. Like Alabama before Nick Saban, USC was far from a powerhouse when Carrol first arrived.

In 2001 the Trojans went 6-6 in Carrol’s first season and broke through during the second season of his tenure (as did Saban’s Crimson Tide).

Led by Heisman winner and future Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, the Trojans went 11-2, finished first in the Pac-10, and won the Orange Bowl.

Their biggest success began the following season when Matt Leinart took over the offense and Reggie Bush arrived in Los Angeles. The Trojans went 12-1, once again finished atop of their conference, and claimed a share of the national title.

They were the undisputed champions the following season (that is, unless you’re an Auburn fan), and nearly won an unprecedented third consecutive national championship the following year.

The 2005 USC Trojans' hype was similar to that of Lebron James and the Miami Heat. Many were calling them the greatest team in college football history before their 41-38 loss in the Rose Bowl.

Years later, their legacy would be remembered for their downfall and not the one that occurred against Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns.

The Reggie Bush scandal has tarnished the legacy of Pete Carrol’s USC Trojans, but there is still no denying the talent of those teams. 54 players from their 2004 team eventually made an NFL roster.

Even after Bush and Leinart went to the NFL, the Trojans didn’t fall from national title contention. Carrol didn’t earn another championship ring, but USC remained one of the best teams in the nation.

They were able to replace their lost stars with their depth and recruiting classes.

Matt Leinart was replaced by John David Booty, who was subsequently replaced by Mark Sanchez.

Joe McKnight and an assortment of other tailbacks were never as good as Reggie Bush and LenDale White, but the running game was still productive. 

When Lofa Tatupu and Keith Rivers went pro; Rey Maulaugua, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews did more than just step up.

From 2006-2008, the Trojans went 34-5 and won the Rose Bowl for three consecutive years (not the three-peat Pete Carrol had in mind). The Trojans may have won a BCS title during that time if they had been able to avoid those upsets against weaker Pac-10 schools.

NCAA sanctions not binding, USC won at least 11 games and were ranked in the top four for seven consecutive seasons, before Carrol’s last season as head coach, when the Trojans went 9-4. 

Saban is only in his fifth season as Alabama’s head coach, but his squad has reached a level of expectations similar to those talented USC teams.

A season that is only seen as a success if a championship banner is raised.

Nebraska and Florida State fans had the same expectations in the 1990’s when Tom Osbourne and Bobby Bowden where in charge of those programs. It was the same in Miami during the Jimmie Johnson/Dennis Erickson era, but that feeling was short-lived in the Ken Dorsey era.

The Hurricanes were the top program in the nation ten years ago, but their teams got progressively worse every season. Larry Coker was unable to replace the NFL-caliber talent that Butch Davis brought to Coral Cables. All 17 of the first round picks on the 2001 title team were recruited when Davis was in charge.

Urban Meyer won two national titles and a Sugar Bowl during his six seasons in Gainesville.

The Gators could maintain similar success under Will Muschamp, but their setbacks from last season show that not every football power can put out a title contender every season, especially in college football’s toughest conference. 

Alabama may have routed Arkansas in their conference opener, but it’s just one SEC regular season game, with seven more still to come. Last season, the Crimson Tide looked well on their way to another national championship after routing Penn State and Florida early on.

An October loss to South Carolina exposed the Crimson's Tide weakness, and any shot at a national title was gone after LSU's come-from-behind win in the Saban Bowl. Not to mention the Iron Bowl loss. 

New Orleans will be the site of two BCS games in January, the Sugar Bowl on the 3rd and the National Title Game on the 9th. Alabama is expecting to play on the latter date. A BCS bowl appearance may meet the expectations for every other SEC school (aside from LSU), but not in Tuscaloosa.

The Crimson Tide will only meet their expectations and be seen as a success if they win the national championship. Just like when Pete Carrol and the USC Trojans were dominating the AP Polls on a weekly basis.


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