It wasn't supposed to happen this year.
Alabama was supposed to start their season 0-1 after meeting Clemson in the Georgia Dome. They were returning only nine seniors, one of which was a quarterback most people felt couldn't graduate soon enough.
What followed the 34-10 victory over Clemson has been a series of battles that have progressively made them stronger. Soldiers standing not one in front of the other, but side by side. Moving forward each week, leaving their victories behind them.
They left Atlanta that night a team that knew the worst of the fighting was still ahead of them. They said goodbye to the Georgia Dome in hopes that they would find their way back. Now, 11 games later, the Tide have come home.
They come home to a worthy opponent. They come home to an opponent that is said to possess speed which is uncatchable and a quarterback that can't be broken. A team with depth so deep most teams would start their third stringers.
The Florida Gators are possibly the most offensively satisfying team I have watched play the game of football in the last few years. Alabama is the apple to this Florida orange in that their offense is generally only satisfying to men old enough to remember when television only had a single football game on Saturdays.
Now I'm not saying the high octane offenses that romance the pollsters of today are any better than 'Rockne's four horseman', but it's doubtful they nor the 'Junction Boys' would satisfy today's starry eyed BCS voters.
Their eyes glaze over making it increasingly hard to keep an unbiased opinion of teams they've ironically been given the responsibility of giving an unbiased ranking.
To be fair though, who could really stay unbiased when these kids have such cool names? Colt, Graham, Tebow... The life of a BCS voter is bombarded with predicaments just like this all the time. Who wouldn't be able to understand their frustration in not being allowed to let all of the flashy spread attack teams be No. 1?
Now don't get me wrong, Florida has earned their reputation. They have knocked their opponents out, light bulbs flashing as they slam the mat. Alabama continually gives their opponents kicks to the legs, like a lumber jack chopping at a tree, waiting patiently and relentlessly for them to fall.
Nick Saban has continually defined success this year as what his team will do when they are faced with 'tremendous adversity.' If looking for a chance to show their coach they're successful, they should look no further than December 6th. Tremendous adversity is what will be waiting on them.
It is there that the Tide will try to continue the story they began in late August. Hoping to add a statue of Nick Saban to the empty slot at the Walk of Champions outside Bryant Denny Stadium. A story most of the sports media still ignores while they spend their time thinking about how good Tim Tebow would look without a shirt on.
There has been many times the Tide was supposed to lose this season, and one by one the fans from the newly fallen team assure our Men in Crimson that they'll never get past 'the next team.' Leaving the job that it was theirs to do, hoping another team will do it for them.
No matter what happens this Saturday, when the Men in Crimson make their way back home, you can rest assured that the two best teams in the SEC are exactly who will be playing. It will be a game that, aside from what it assuredly means for whoever wins, will possibly be the best football game played in 2008.
I'm proud of this team. I'm proud of the adversity they have already overcome and I'm proud of the maturity they've shown while doing it. They are apart of something bigger than themselves, which is hard for people of any age to comprehend, much less a group of 18 to 23 year olds.
I was asked a question today. I was asked "Who has Alabama beaten this year?" The tone that the question was asked told me all I needed to know of the intent of the one asking it.
When thinking of the adversity that these boys have overcome this year as they have made their way back to where it all began, I feel good knowing that the answer to the man's question "who has Alabama beaten this year" is simply everyone who's stood before them.