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In college football playoffs, it’s Nick Saban and Pips again

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The trophy is his. All he has to do is pick it up and take it home.

For Nick Saban, that always seems to be Saban, the head coach at Alabama — the Bear de jour, so to speak — is two wins away. Just two. All he has to do is beat Michigan State tonight, then beat the winner of the OklahomaClemson game. Any other result will feel like an upset.


Such are expectations. It’s Saban and the Pips. Every other coach is trying to take the title away from him.

Nothing new there. Saban always seems to be the favorite in the championship hunt. It was that way when Alabama won three of four national championships from 2009-2012. It was that way in 2014, until the Tide was upset by Auburn on the famous kick six game. It was that way in 2015, when the Tide was upset by eventual champion Ohio State.

Saban produces favorites. His team out-recruits everyone. Unless it runs into a bit of college history, it usually wins.

That is why Saban, and his Alabama team, are the favorites as these final four teams begin play. If you count Saban’s championship at LSU, this would be his the fifth championship of his career.

Bob Stoops has one, 16 years ago. Neither Dabo Swinney nor Mark Dantonio have ever won one.

Oh, Saban has his typical team. His quarterback is a fine college player, but not highly touted as a pro prospect. He has a great running back in Heisman winner Derrick Henry. His defense is talented and deep.

But can Saban win another one? To Alabama fans, it has been a long time since 2012, when Saban seemed to have uncovered the secrets of the game. In Tuscaloosa, where they consider trophies a birthright, having seasons slip away late is unsettling.

After all, there already is a statue of Saban at Alabama. As for Dantonio, the former Saban assistant, we can assume one is being carved.

Win this, and Saban may get another statue.

This time, he’ll be holding a trophy.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit [email protected]

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