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Nick Saban: Alabama's 2021 Season Was 'Rebuilding Year' Despite CFP Title Appearance

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVAugust 3, 2022

Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Alabama's football program is so dominant under Nick Saban that it reached the College Football Playoff national championship game in a self-described "rebuilding year."

The head coach called the 2021 campaign as much during an appearance on McElroy and Cubelic In The Morning (h/t Brad Crawford of 247Sports):

"Last year, we had kind of a rebuilding year, so we should have nine starters back on offense and nine back on defense but six guys go out early for the draft. So now we have five back on offense and seven back on defense, so that in and of itself creates a few more question marks but also creates opportunity for other players to shine in the program and contribute in a positive way. Nobody knows for sure how all this stuff’s going to sort of come to fruition, but that's part of the excitement and challenge we have to try and develop a team."

First, some context.

Yes, basically every program in the country would dream of making the national title game in even its best season, so to hear a coach say it happened in a rebuilding year is somewhat jarring. But the standard is different at Alabama, which is in championship-or-bust mode every season under Saban.

That standard is a testament to his coaching excellence and what he has built with the ability to reload seemingly every time players head to the NFL.

The Crimson Tide have reached the CFP in seven of the eight years the postseason system has been in place. They advanced to the title game in six of those years and took home the national championship three times.

Any season that doesn't end in a championship could therefore be considered less than a success given that history, and Alabama looked vulnerable multiple times in 2021.

It defeated Florida by two points, LSU by six and Arkansas by seven in conference games that were much closer than expected. It also needed four overtimes to beat an Auburn squad that went 6-7 and then lost by 15 to Georgia in the national title game.

It was rebuilding in a sense after losing players such as Mac Jones, Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith to the NFL after winning the title during the 2020 campaign.

This season's Alabama team gets many of its primary contributors back, including quarterback Bryce Young and linebacker Will Anderson Jr. They are two of the top players in all of college football and could each feature prominently in the Heisman Trophy race.

If they do, a national championship will once again be the expectation for the Crimson Tide.

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