Coming off a narrow defeat to the eventual national champions in the inaugural College Football Playoff, it’s funny to think of the Alabama Crimson Tide as having had a disappointing season. They were definitely one of the four best teams in the country, and the results seemed to indicate they were very clearly the second best team in all of college football–a touchdown away from a shot at their fourth title in six years.
However, the reality that success has created in Tuscaloosa, Alabama doesn’t allow for contentedness. Alabama fans aren’t panicking, they know their program is in capable hands (perhaps the most capable) and that they’ll continue to compete for championships. Yet, they won’t allow themselves to be pleased with simply being a great program among other great programs. They expect singular eminence.
The threat of Urban Meyer at Ohio State certainly brings that into question. The Buckeyes found their identity late in the 2014 season and parlayed that momentum into a third national championship for Meyer.
In 2015, Ohio State will return a Heisman Trophy candidate at running back, three quarterbacks that would probably start at 120 of the 128 other FBS programs in the country and 14 starters total. They’re a slam-dunk to the preseason No. 1 team in the country, and oddsmakers will ultimately favor Ohio State and Alabama to win the second ever CFP National Championship.
Ohio State is the first legitimate threat to Alabama’s supremacy over the course of the past six years. Others have won national championships during Alabama’s stretch of dominance, but nobody posed as large a threat as Ohio State.
On a couple of occasions, they weren’t even the best team in the state, but because of the way Alabama recruits nationally, Auburn’s ability to consistently dethrone the Crimson Tide is largely a one-off. They can win occasionally, and if they can beat Alabama they will be major players nationally, but they’re still ultimately a step behind their hated rivals.
Florida State won 29 consecutive games and took home the final title of the BCS era, but Oregon showed that the winning streak was largely predicated by a soft ACC schedule. Of course, that’s not FSU’s fault, and their strength may inevitably raise the profile of the conference as a whole, but that takes time. Regardless, FSU is still a great program, they’re just slightly behind Alabama because they don’t have the body of work.
The Buckeyes have a coach whose resume stacks nearly evenly with the almighty Nick Saban. The program is an established national powerhouse with incredible facilities and similarly unlimited resources, and that’s why Alabama fans won’t be satisfied with CFP bids.
Luckily, Nick Saban never remains idle. Urban Meyer and Ohio State won the national championship, but Saban looks to further the arms race with another No. 1 recruiting class. He currently sits atop 247Sports’ Composite Team Rankings, and if things stay that way through National Signing Day, it means that next fall, every single player on the Alabama roster will have been part of a No. 1 signing class.
With 26 commitments through Jan. 18 including five composite 5-stars and 15 composite 4-stars, the Crimson Tide are on top of the team rankings by a wide margin. They’ve got seven of those 26 commits on campus already, and though Ohio State isn’t on the schedule (for now), the Crimson Tide will need their freshman to make immediate contributions if they hope to keep pace with the Buckeyes, who also have a Top 10 class coming in.
Six of the Top 40 players in the country are currently Alabama verbals, and they’re at positions of importance. There’s a pair of lockdown corners, another 5-star running back to step into a revolving door of 5-star backs in the Alabama backfield, a 5-star pro-style QB who perfectly fits the system and a big-play receiver who will need to give Alabama some immediate production to ease the sting of Amari Cooper’s loss.
Nick Saban has made a habit of signing No. 1 recruiting classes, but this might be his most important class. Ohio State looms as an obstacle on the path to world domination, and the expectation is so high for this program that anything less than world domination won’t suffice.