Theres a reason why Nick Saban is the best coach in college football today. And not just today but of the new millennium. And possibly the greatest coach since Bear Bryant retired.
It's not that he out-recruits everybody every year -- which he does.
It's not that he has the smartest defensive mind -- which he has.
It's not just that he insists that every coach under him prepares every player for every conceivable scenario -- which they do.
Those qualities make Saban very good. But what makes him great, what separates him from the many very good coaches among his peers, is his relentless attention to detail.
Last week, in his news conference to preview the Western Kentucky game, Saban admonished the media. Ostensibly, Saban was upset that reporters weren't giving Western Kentucky enough respect. But the truth is much deeper. Saban was worried. Not so much worried about Western Kentucky, though the prospect of an upset was hardly far-fetched to him. No, Saban was, and probably still is, worried that his players are going to start believing everything being written and said about them.
This, mind you, is not a criticism but a compliment. Great coaches never underestimate any opponent. They also never forget that their players are 18-22-year-old men who might believe that all they have to do is show up and they will prevail.
While Bama had little trouble with Western Kentucky, winning 35-0, Saban's point was made nonetheless. Arkansas lost in overtime to Louisiana-Monroe.
"There's a tremendous balance between humility and confidence," Saban said. "In this game it's a struggle. It's a struggle every day. You've got to embrace it every day. You've got to go out there and try to earn it every day, all right, to be as good a player as you can be. You've got to have a tremendous amount of character, confidence, mental and physical toughness. You've got to be driven to be the best, and you've got to be able to handle success."
Alabama was in almost this identical position two years ago. The Crimson Tide was coming off a national championship, ranked No. 1 again and seemingly invincible. Then came a stunning loss at South Carolina. It was the first of three losses for a team that had seemed unbeatable.
So Saban's point wasn't about Western Kentucky, nor was his outburst targeted toward the media. The real target was his team. Going through a season undefeated is hard. It's virtually impossible if a team allows itself to get distracted by anything, most of all its accolades.
The season is just getting started. It's tempting to draw conclusions from the first two weeks and project how the season will play out. But about the only thing that we can be sure of is that the season will hold many shocking turns of events.
"We play the games for a reason," Saban said, repeating the line for emphasis. "And we make all these predictions of what's going to happen, it takes away from the game. I think, I mean, just like everybody talks about who's going to win the national championship. Why do we play the games? We've got a lot of great games coming up. Why do we play those?"
Georgia's 41-20 win at Missouri seemed to validate the Bulldogs as the favorites to win the SEC East. But before anybody punches their ticket to Atlanta, remember that the Dogs still have seven conference games to play.
Conversely, Auburn's season seems already lost after the Tigers' 28-10 loss at Mississippi State left them 0-2. But there's still plenty of time for Auburn to salvage its season. If the whole seasons turns out to be as dismal as Saturday's game, then it's time to reassess the direction of the program under Gene Chizik.
Meanwhile, let the season play out.
-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.